By 2032, the number of new high school graduates in New England is projected to decline by 22,000 to a total 140,273, according to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s (WICHE) most recent Knocking at the College Door report.
New England’s challenge with an aging population and falling birth rates has been well chronicled. With fresh projections and an ever-changing political climate, the number of high schoolers expected to graduate in the region–from a public or private high–warrants a much closer look. As does the changing demography of the graduating class: with the number of white high school graduates projected to fall by 25%, while the number of minority graduates rises significantly.
Overall, the number of new high school graduates in New England is projected to decline by 14%. Within the region, Connecticut and New Hampshire face the greatest declines with the number of new high school graduates in both states is expected to decrease by 20% by 2032. The majority of graduates, currently 87%, of high schoolers in New England, attend a public high school. However, a greater share of students attends private school in this region than the rest of the nation. Whereas a projected 7% of students will graduate from a private secondary school nationally by 2032, nearly 12% of New Englanders will.
Fewer white students being born in the region can explain much of the decline in graduates in New England. During the period 2016-2032, the number of white high school graduates is projected to fall by 25%. Over that same time period, the number of minority graduates will increase significantly—by 46% among Hispanics, 7% among blacks , 2% among American Indian/Alaska Natives and a 37% among Asian/Pacific Islanders.
Nationally, for every 10 white graduates lost, eight minority graduates are gained. In New England, this is not the case. For every 10 white students lost, just four minority graduates are gained. Nonetheless, by 2032, 45% of high school graduates in the region will be minority.
The implication of fewer high school graduates pose real challenges to higher education institutions, both public and private, as well the regional economy. The region’s population decline has other implications including fewer Congressional representatives, who have often been champions of public higher education.
Candace Williams is NEBHE’s associate director of policy & research.