University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center Study Projects School Enrollment Growth to Cost Virginia Millions

August 2, 2006 — The University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center released a study showing that increases in school enrollment over the next five years will cost the Commonwealth of Virginia millions of dollars. According to the latest projections by the center’s Demographics & Workforce Section, by 2010 the number of K-12 students in Virginia public schools will rise by nearly 30,000. The growth is fueled by unprecedented large birth cohorts and migration.

According to Michael Spar, a Weldon Cooper Center researcher who conducted the study, public school membership has steadily increased each year since 1985, and the next five years will continue this upward trend. Spar projected that the enrollment growth would add at least $275 million to educational costs, assuming the cost per student remained the same as the current level of $9,202. Local school divisions as well as state and federal governments would share a portion of these estimated new costs:

  • Virginia state - $120 million
  • Local school divisions - $136 million
  • U.S. government - $19 million.

The number of Virginia elementary school students in grades K to 6 is projected to increase each year until 2010, when it will peak at 667,000 students. The number of middle school pupils in grades 7 to 9 is forecasted to decrease by about 10,000 students in the next four years, but increase slightly between the school year 2009 and 2010. High school enrollment will grow for the next two years but then decrease in the last three. By 2010, high school enrollment figures should be slightly higher than they are today.

In addition, the study shows that the number of private school, home-schooled and religious-exemption students in Virginia also increased significantly during the past 10 years.

Enrollment growth will be uneven across the state's 132 school divisions. Only 40 percent will see increased enrollment by 2010, while the remaining school divisions will see declining numbers of students. Six school divisions can expect to have significant increases: Loudoun County (+21,350), Prince William County (+16,298), Spotsylvania County (+5,458), Stafford County (+5,288), Chesterfield County (+3,828) and Henrico County (+3,256). School divisions facing the largest membership declines include Virginia Beach (-4,517), Norfolk (-1,667), Richmond City (-1,548) and Hampton (-1,448).

The Demographics & Workforce Section of U.Va.’s Weldon Cooper Center produces an annual series of school enrollment projections for the state and for each local school division. These five-year projections are broken down by individual grade. Detailed projections for the state and each school division can be found on the Weldon Cooper Center's Web site at the School Division Membership Forecasts.


For more information about the Weldon Cooper Center and its Demographics & Workforce Section, please contact Michael A. Spar, research associate, at (804) 371-0202 or