April 2006

A periodic newsletter on a single topic of interest published by the Office of Higher Education

Minnesota High School Graduates Will Peak in 2009
White graduates declining while graduates of color expected to increase

This issue of Insight releases new high school graduation projections for Minnesota's public and private high schools that show that graduates will increase slightly between 2005 and 2009. After peaking in 2009 at 64,078, the projections show a steady decline, with an overall 10 percent decline from 2005 to 2015. The new high school graduate projections were developed by the Minnesota State Demographic Center for the Office of Higher Education.

Actual and Projected Minnesota High School Graduates from 1978 to 2015

Today's high school graduate numbers are in the midrange of recent historic levels. The years prior to 1992 were characterized by declining numbers of graduates, falling from 72,660 in 1978 to a low of 49,239 in 1992. Since 1992, the number of graduates statewide has been growing as children of the baby boom generation reach graduation age.

Current Minnesota high school graduates are part of the age group known as the "boomlet," the children of baby boomers. The boomlet is a relatively large cohort, affecting the number of high school graduates and traditional age post-secondary students for the remainder of this decade.

Minnesota Population by Age and Gender, 2004

Graduates of Color will Increase while White Graduates Decline
The number of white high school graduates is projected to decrease by 9,494, or 17 percent, from 2005 and 2015. The number of students of color is projected to increase by 3,358. Even though this is a 40 percent increase between 2005 and 2015 for students of color, it is not enough to offset the decrease in the number of white graduates.

Projected Change in Minnesota High School Graduates

Students of Color White
Year Number Percent Number Percent Total
Percent change
2004-2005 to 2014-2015

Students of color will comprise about 20 percent of Minnesota high school graduates in 2015, up from 13 percent in 2005. The largest increases will be in the number of Hispanic and Black graduates.

Students of color will make up a growing proportion of the public high school student body. Currently, students of color are 20 percent of the metro area public high school population in grades 10 through 12. Seventy-one percent of students at Minneapolis and St. Paul public high schools are students of color.

Projected Minnesota High School Graduates-Students of Color

In preparing the data for this report, high school graduation rates (or ratios) were used to more accurately predict high school graduation of students by racial and ethnic group. Two groups, Black and especially Hispanic students, were considerably less likely to graduate from high school within five years of entering eighth grade than their Asian, American Indian and white counterparts. The Minnesota State Demographic Center adjusted its projections accordingly, meaning that a lower percentage of Black and Hispanic students in eighth grade are projected to graduate five years later. The lower graduation rates diminished the potential number of Black and Hispanic students included in the projections. As high school graduation rates improve for certain groups, high school graduate projections will increase.

Projected Minnesota High School Graduates by Race/Ethnicity

YearAmerican IndianAsianHispanicBlackStudents of ColorWhiteTotal

View statewide projections by race/ethnicity and gender.

View Twin Cities projections by race/ethnicity and gender.

View greater Minnesota projections by race/ethnicity and gender.

Minnesota High School Graduate Projections Vary by Planning Region
Statewide projections mask significant regional differences. Between 2005 and 2015, the total number of high school graduates in the Twin Cities region is projected to decrease by 7 percent, while the Greater Minnesota area will decrease by 13 percent. [view region/county table]

Regional data are reported by 11 Minnesota economic development regions. These boundaries were established in 1969 based on a variety of cultural, economic, political and social characteristics. Regions follow county lines.

Projected Percent Change in High School Graduates between 2004-2005 and 2014-2015

Which counties are in each planning region?

Greater Minnesota High School Graduates Have Peaked
Overall projections for regions excluding the seven-county metro area (Region 11) show a steady decline from a peak of about 31,044 new high school graduates in 2005 to a total of 27,117 in 2015, a 13 percent decrease during this period. Projections show region 7, which includes St. Cloud and the growing Sherburne and Wright counties, increasing about 7 percent, or 517 students, over the next 10 years. Total high school graduates are projected to steadily decrease for all other economic development regions in Minnesota. Proportional decreases, between 2005 and 2015, will range from 13 to 26 percent. Two regions are projected to lose the largest number of students from 2005 to 2015. Region 10 in Southeastern Minnesota will lose 793 students and Region 3 in Northeastern Minnesota will lose 942 students during the 10 year period.

Two major trends are projected to result in decreasing numbers of high school graduates in Greater Minnesota. First, the population bulge of the boomlet generation has graduated from high school, with fewer elementary and secondary students to follow. This trend is more pronounced in Greater Minnesota. Second, Census data show a steady migration of people from rural communities to the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

Metropolitan Area Graduates Outnumber Graduates from Greater Minnesota
For the first time in 2003, the majority of high school graduates in Minnesota were from high schools in the Twin Cities 7-county metropolitan area (Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott and Washington counties). Many of the urban and especially suburban public high schools have large student enrollments of 2,500 or more.

Twin Cities graduates are projected to peak in 2009 at about 33,980 before declining to about 31,775 in 2015. Twin Cities (Region 11) high school graduates made up 45 percent of total graduates in 1996, 51 percent in 2005, and are projected to make up 53 percent in 2015.

Actual and Projected Minnesota High School Graduates between the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area and Greater Minnesota, 1996-2014

Implications for Post-Secondary Enrollments
Currently 74 percent of undergraduate students enrolled in Minnesota are 24 years old or younger. High school graduate projections provide insight into changes in the potential number of traditional age students, 24 years old or younger, available to enroll in post-secondary education institutions. The larger boomlet generation, currently ages 15 to 24, has helped to produce enrollment increases at many Minnesota institutions over the last seven years. Projections indicate there should be a steady stream of traditional age post-secondary students over the next five years.

Institutions such as community colleges that draw the bulk of their students from high schools within the local service area will be most directly affected by declining numbers of high school graduates. At the same time, many post-secondary education institutions have changed and expanded their program offerings and services to accommodate older non-traditional students.

High school graduation trends in surrounding states will also have implications for Minnesota post-secondary institutions. State education departments in Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin do not prepare high school graduate projections, but prepare K-12 enrollment projections. In each of the adjacent states, the population expected to be seniors in high school is projected to decrease over the next 10 years.

Once the peak of new Minnesota high school graduates passes in 2009, traditional age populations of post-secondary students are projected to decline. This is similar to what happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

College Participation Rates Remain Steady
The Minnesota Office of Higher Education reports that about 65 percent of Minnesota's high school graduates enroll in postsecondary education following graduation. Participation rates of graduating Minnesota high school seniors enrolling directly in college have shown year-to-year changes but are generally flat. Unless high school to college participation rates increase—especially among low-income students, students of color and other students who are traditionally underrepresented in post-secondary education—colleges will have a smaller pool of students from which to recruit.

Notes on Methodology

These projections were prepared by the Minnesota State Demographic Center. Total enrollments by grade and the numbers of high school graduates were collected from the Minnesota Department of Education. The method used projected the number of future high school graduates using historical series of the ratios of eighth-grade enrollment to graduation five years later and tenth-grade enrollments to graduation three years later. The ratio used is the average of the past five years. Future eighth-grade and tenth-grade enrollments are projected using a historical series of grade progression ratios. An uncertainty range was developed for each projected value, providing an approximate 90 percent confidence interval.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education produces high school projections to help post-secondary institutions and other policymakers develop future plans based on probable population changes.

About the Office of Higher Education

The Office of Higher Education is a state agency providing students with financial aid programs and information to help them gain access to post-secondary education. The agency serves as the state's clearinghouse for data, research and analysis on post-secondary enrollment, financial aid, finance and trends.

The Minnesota State Grant program, which is administered by the agency, is a need-based tuition assistance program for Minnesota students. The agency also oversees tuition reciprocity programs, a student loan program, Minnesota's 529 college savings program, licensing and an early awareness outreach initiative for youth. Through collaboration with systems and institutions, the agency assists in the development of the state's education technology infrastructure and shared library resources.


Graduates of Color will Increase while White Graduates Decline

Minnesota High School Graduate Projections Vary by Planning Region

Greater Minnesota High School Graduates Have Peaked

Metropolitan Area Graduates Outnumber Graduates from Greater Minnesota

Implications for Post-Secondary Enrollments

College Participation Rates Remain Steady


College participation rates of recent Minnesota high school graduates

Age of students enrolled in Minnesota post-secondary institutions


Minnesota Department of Education: public high school graduation data

Minnesota Department of Education: drop out rates

Minnesota Demographic Center: Minnesota's population continues to become more diverse

Minnesota Demographic Center: Projections-Population and characteristics of the future

WICHE: Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates by State, Income, and Race/Ethnicity


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Alexandra Djurovich
Research and Policy Analyst

Barb Schlaefer
Director of Communications