U.S. Public and Nonpublic High School Graduates, 1996-97 to 2027-28

Brian Prescott
Director of Policy Research
Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)
 
For over 30 years, WICHE has periodically released projections of the number (and racial/ethnic breakdown) of high school graduates being produced by each state. This graph shows the total number of graduates the nation can expect between 2009-10 and 2027-28, as reported on in the 8th edition of Knocking at the College Door released in January 2013. It illustrates a dramatic change in the size of the pool of prospective traditional-age college entrants: after a peak in 2010-11 at over 3.4 million graduates, colleges and universities can expect the production of high school graduates to dip slightly. The peak year brings to an end a nearly two-decade-long era of continual, rapid growth in the number of students leaving high school and considering postsecondary education (and does not even address the growing numbers of adult learners seeking the same thing). The recruitment and admissions policies and practices established and refined during this era of uninterrupted growth may not be optimal for the new reality of a stagnant and, in some geographic regions, declining applicant pool. This demographic change, together with rapid diversification along racial/ethnic lines, also add to the climate of fiscal distress facing higher education institutions, both public and private, as they compete over a smaller pool of academically well-prepared, traditional-age applicants.
 

 

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Total Comments: 6
 
Rebecca posted on 6/7/2013 6:04 PM
I like almost everything about this very simple and straight-forward chart. Let me start with the things I'm not crazy about.
(1) The font of the title is a little hard to read on screen. I'd stick with a standard sans serif font, such as the one used everywhere else in the chart.
(2) I'd use grey rather than gold as the outline color for the call-out. As it is the piece of the chart that draws the most attention (because it is a warm color surrounded by neutral and cool colors) is the outline of the call-out, but it's definitely not the most important thing on the screen.

Now to what I like... The change in color in the trend-line is a great way to distinguish past from present. The use of the call-out box draws attention directly to the point the graph is trying to make. A line graph is definitely the correct choice. It's both clear and fits the intended message.
Leslie posted on 6/10/2013 10:08 AM
This is a good time line chart. It really highlights the point :)
Nicole posted on 6/18/2013 8:49 AM
Thanks for sharing this chart!
Liz posted on 6/18/2013 2:19 PM
Clarity: this line chart is a great execution and shows the trend clearly. Two comments on things that are not clear to me: 1) I may have missed it, but what is the meaning of the different color lines? I assumed at first that the light blue is actual and the dark is projected (from my memory of WICHE data),though I don't think this is the case. 2) the slanted X axis labels makes it hard to line up the years with the chart. If I wanted to see what year the post-2010/11 peak bottomed out, I would need a ruler I think. It might be more effective to label and mark on the line every 5 years, perhaps. In this way, the reader could do a little post-production analysis if desired.

Accuracy: the only consideration I have on the issue of accuracy is the Y axis. This starts at 2.2M and ends at 3.6M. When I close up the chart and think about what I have just seen, I do envision a strong peak and a strong subsequent decline base on this graph - is this 200,000 drop appropriately portrayed in the chart? It does not seem out of proportion really, but something to consider.

Fit with message: I find the commentary above compelling - this idea of 17 years of steady growth and practices that evolved during this time not applicable to today's reality. When I look at the chart, the post-growth "new reality" however takes up over half of the line - it gets a little more graph-time in a way. After the post-peak decline, there is slower, softer growth portrayed in the chart. It doesn't feel quite as stagnant as it sounds in the text. It might be helpful to add an average annual growth rate post-peak to showcase the different trajectories, or some way to visually reinforce this new reality: pre-peak 15 years total growth of x compared to post-peak 15 years projected growth of Y, different annual growth rates, etc. Just to reinforce your idea. It may be too that the darker color stands out more and feels more dominant.

Appropriate display/asthetic appeal: I like the clean, direct look and feel of the line chart. From my perspective, it is the most appropriate execution of this time-series data.

Thanks for posting! these lines charts can say a lot very simply.
Liz posted on 6/25/2013 12:30 AM
After rereading the text again and lining up the diagonal labels, I see that the dark blue line is the projected enrollment starting in 2009-10. It would be helpful to reference this on the chart itself as a footnote. These 2009/10, 2010/11 and 2011/12 points are still projections, though the graph was produced in 2012, released in 2013. Sorry for my confusion below, and thanks.
Maria posted on 8/15/2013 1:08 PM
Very interesting and clean chart. The explanations speak about changing the policies, but the changes in the policies can be done after understanding why the decline occurs - and this is not said. I would be curious to learn - why.