High School Graduate Numbers Shrinking

June 29, 2011 | The Hartford Courant |  Link to article

A Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization says that nationally the number of high school graduates will remain flat between 2010 and 2020, but in Connecticut that number will decline by 10.1 percent.

Vicky Choitz, a senior policy analyst for the Center for Law & Social Policy, said the trend is based on "simple demographics" and could present problems for employers who will need educated and skilled employees.

"With Connecticut's negative 10 percent growth rate, it's lagging significantly behind the nation," Choitz said, "and it's more important for Connecticut to invest in education and training for low-income, lower-skilled adults."

The nonprofit's study says that Connecticut is one of seven states and the District of Columbia with a projected decrease in the number of high school graduates of 10 percent or more by 2020.

Besides Connecticut, the states with the greatest decline in high school graduates are New York, Vermont, Rhode Island, Michigan, Lousiana and North Dakota.

The states expected to have the greatest growth in high school graduates over the next decade — greater than 20 percent — include Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Idaho.

The numbers for Connecticut are expected to decline from 42,741 in 2009-2010 academic year to 38,444 in 2019-2020.

Braden Hosch, of the state's Department of Higher Education, said the state's projections also show a decline in the number of high school graduates over the next decade — due to a shrinking population of students; he estimates the decline in graduates will be in the 9 percent to 10 percent range.

"The idea that anyone with any precision could get to 10.1 percent is a little foolish," he said.

He said the latest data on high school graduates from the state Department of Education shows that 37,904 students graduated with the Class of 2010. Hosch said the state's numbers differ from the law center's because the latter includes private high school graduates and relies on projections based on older numbers.

Choitz said that while the number of high school graduates is shrinking in states such as Connecticut, the number of skilled jobs is expected to grow significantly.

The report says that in Connecticut, between 2008 and 2018, labor demand will increase almost three times as much for college-educated workers — 85,000 additional jobs — as for high school graduates and drop-outs — an additional 31,000 jobs.

In states like Connecticut, where there won't be enough high school and college graduates to fill those jobs, Choitz said, it is important to make sure that student aid programs are available for adult and non-traditional students who want to return to school.

The report says that adult enrollment in college is expected to grow twice as fast as enrollments by students of traditional age.

Choitz said it is important to make sure that Pell grants, which have been "on the chopping block," are not cut back and are available for these non-traditional students. In addition, she said, colleges and universities should schedule classes in a way that is convenient for part-time adult learners.

"It is critical that federal student aid be responsive to the needs of adults who often must juggle work, family and school responsibilities," Choitz said, "and who are on their own financially."

Hosch said the state system does make efforts to accommodate non-traditional students, noting that 41 percent of community college students were over age 25 in 2010.

For more information on Connecticut education and employment numbers and a U.S. map reflecting numbers of high school graduates, go to:

http://www.clasp.org/admin/site/publications_states/files/Not-Kid-Stuff-Anymore_CT.pdf

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