Schools Bracing for ‘Enrollment Cliff’ Amid Declining U.S. Birth Rate

Empty high school classroom

Schools are reportedly bracing for an “enrollment cliff” that will involve high schools and colleges closing down, staff getting laid off, and school districts grappling with financial issues. The declining U.S. birth rate is partly to blame.

The U.S. is anticipating hitting its “peak high school graduate” in 2025 or 2026, with around 3.9 million young people graduating. After that, the number of students will decline, with school expecting to experience a decade-long dry spell they’re referring to as an “enrollment cliff,” according to a report by Axios.

Notably, a birthrate drop after the 2008 recession is partly to blame. Meanwhile, K-12 schools — most of which are located in cities that lost a portion of their population amid the Chinese coronavirus pandemic — are also closing down.

Thomas Dee, an economist and professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education, told Axios, “There has not been a rebound in public school enrollment” since the pandemic, implying that parents simply stuck with the homeschooling after in-person classes resumed.

U.S. high schools are expected to have only 3.5 million graduates by 2037 — a 10.7 percent decrease — according to data from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), an organization that examines student demographics and addresses education issues.

“I think folks are getting a sense of the ramifications at this point,” Patrick Lane, WICHE’s vice president of policy analysis and research, told Axios. “Things are going to get harder rather than easier for higher ed.”

“The elementary schools are already living it — they’re seeing smaller K-12 classes,” Lane added. “We always push back against the ‘cliff’ nomenclature. It looks much more like a peak and then a decline.”

There also exists a looming “financial cliff,” as schools prepare for their COVID-related relief funds to expire this September.

Meanwhile, pro-terrorist demonstrations are raging on college campuses, as blundering Ivy League presidents get ousted, while the public watches in shock and collectively questions the value of expensive college degrees — that the Biden administration wants taxpayers to pay for.

According to Gallup polling, Americans’ confidence in higher education dropped to 36 percent in last year, a drastic decline when compared to 2015 (57 percent) and 2018 (48 percent).

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and X at @ARmastrangelo, and on Instagram.


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