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Decline in California’s number of high school graduates looms, according to study

The overall number of California high school graduates will continue to climb for the next several years before peaking in 2024, when declining birth rates will drive a steady downturn for the foreseeable future, according to a new report.

The report, “Knocking at the College Door,” projects similar trends for the rest of the United States. The study is published by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE).

Here are some of the key findings from the study:

  • In 2019, 484,629 high school students graduated in California, including about 439,000 from public schools.
  • There will be a peak of 506,890 high school graduates in California in 2024, according to the study.
  • Beginning in 2025, the number of California’s high school graduates will steadily decline, all the way down to about 411,000 in 2037, the last year for which the study includes projections.
  • The Latino student population is a major driver of the trends in California. The number of Latino students graduating from California’s public high schools is expected to hit a peak of about 248,000 in 2024 before beginning to decline, according to the report.

The report also acknowledges that the uncertain impact of Covid-19 presents an “enormous asterisk” for the data.

“Future declines could be further mitigated if the nation continues to improve graduation rates, particularly among underserved students, or conversely, they could be exacerbated if impacts related to Covid-19 erode the progress we previously made,” Demarée Michelau, president of WICHE, said in a statement.