U.Va. Study Finds Virginia Public Schools to Graduate Record Numbers of Students

June 5, 2007 -- Manufacturers of caps and gowns may scramble for supplies this June.  According to a recent study by the Demographics and Workforce Section of the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, this year’s public high school graduating class of 81,320 sets a new record for the Commonwealth, representing a class 4.7 percent larger than 2005-2006.

“Public high school graduation numbers remain high, even though private schools educate an increasing number of Virginia students” reports Michael Spar, the Weldon Cooper Center researcher who conducted the study. “The number of public high school graduates has been increasing since 1993, as children born to the baby boom generation moved through high school,” noted Spar. “The size of this generation, known as the baby boom echo, combined with increasing in-migration to Virginia keeps graduating classes large.”

Mirroring the population overall, graduates are concentrated in the state’s major metropolitan areas, with 10 large metropolitan school divisions graduating 39,982 students, nearly half of the state total.

The 10 large metropolitan school divisions with the largest graduating classes include:

School Division    Estimated 2006-2007 Graduates

Fairfax — 11,924
Virginia Beach — 5,008
Chesterfield — 4,249
Prince William  — 4,166
Henrico — 3,271
Chesapeake  — 3,018
Loudoun  — 2,905
Newport News — 1,904
Stafford — 1,857
Spotsylvania — 1,680

The newly released study forecasts that graduating class size will peak in 2009-2010 at 84,069, slowly decline for five years, and then begin an upward growth pattern in 2016-2017, the last year of the projections. Spar noted: “Anticipating these trends will help schools and colleges adapt to fluctuations in demand for programs and facilities.”

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia collects data on the number of high school graduates who become community college freshmen within one year after leaving high school. These students will increase from 14,327 this year to nearly 15,000 in 2010-2011. Calculating and aggregating these numbers by community college service area suggests how projected changes in the number of graduates may impact community college enrollments.  According to Cooper Center calculations, Germanna, Lord Fairfax, and the Thomas Nelson community colleges may anticipate larger than average increases in the next five years.

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 school division. High school graduation projections will be produced every other year, alternating with a series of average daily membership projections. This report, tables, and a printable map can be found on the Demographics & Workforce Section's Web site at:
http://www.coopercenter.org/demographics/SCHOOL PROJECTIONS/

The original study, data and reprintable graphics are available at: http://www.coopercenter.org/demographics/SCHOOL%20PROJECTIONS/GRADUATES.PHP  or try this tiny url: http://tinyurl.com/ytequu 

For more information about this study, please contact Michael A. Spar, research associate, at (804) 371-0202 or mas6g@virginia.edu.