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National School Enrollment Growth and State Drops: Latest Updates

Nationally, public school enrollment is set to rise by nearly three percent over the next decade.

That would seem welcome news to public school advocates concerned about the impact of school choice and competition on enrollments.

But a deeper dive into forecasts from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reveals that several states are bracing for significant declines in public school enrollment by 2026.

Our latest TrustED video illustrates some of the most severe declines:

  • Michigan will lose 10 percent of its public school students by 2026.
  • Maine will see a 12 percent drop in student enrollment over the next eight years.
  • Connecticut and New Hampshire face the steepest projected declines, with nearly 14 percent of students leaving by 2026.

In total, NCES predicts 18 states will see enrollment declines in the next several years—most of those declines will be concentrated in the Midwest and New England.

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Because so much of public school funding is wrapped up in per-pupil expenditures, experts say the declines could have a real impact on their ability to fund new programs and serve parents and families.

The changes can be attributed to two major factors.

First, demographic changes are contributing to shifting school populations. Second, the rapid expansion of school choice increases competition for students and families in affected states.

Amid these shifts, public school leaders are doubling down on creative approaches to recruit new students and keep families from choosing out.

Among them:

Is your school or district facing increased competition from school choice this year? What strategies are you using to keep families enrolled and engaged? Tell us in the comments.