U-M Economist Forecasts Drop In School-Aged Children To Continue 'At a Very Rapid Rate'

Michigan's K-12 schools already have seen enrollment declines for 12 consecutive years

University of Michigan economist Don Grimes has bad news for K-12 school districts and colleges in the state: There will be fewer and fewer school-age children in the near future.

Grimes said he was “very certain” that there would be a continued decline in children ages 5-17 in Michigan, and “at a very rapid rate.”

The population of children ages 5-17 in Michigan has dropped 5 percent in the four years from 2010 to 2014, Grimes reported. He projects it will drop at about the same rate through 2019, to 1,565,304.

“One nice thought about forecasting the population for school-age children is that all of the potential numbers are already known,” Grimes said in an email. He added, “Nobody pops into the world at age 5.”

Grimes said historical data from the U.S. Census Bureau gives the raw population data, to which he applies mortality and migration factors. Grimes said the state's economy also plays a factor; his calculations are based on a belief that "Michigan's economy will continue to do relatively well through 2019."

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In 2015, there will be more children turning age 18 and exiting the K-12 years than turning 5 years old.

"So the decline in the school-age population is guaranteed to continue for many more years, just because there are substantially more older school-age children than there are pre K-12 age children," Grimes said. “This indicates less need for K-12 schools, but it also will put pressure on colleges and universities, as the main source of potential students shrinks.”

Predictions made after 2019 are much more complicated, he said.

Midland Public Schools has seen enrollment drop 11 percent from 8,712 in 2009-10 to 7,736 in 2014-15, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

Midland Superintendent Michael Sharrow said that enrollment has stabilized for grades K-8 at Midland but said he expects that high school enrollment will decline over the next four years.

Sharrow said schools have become more competitive in recruiting students.

“We are beating our predicted decline slightly with added enrollment from SOC (school-of-choice), parochial and or private school students enrolling,” Sharrow said in an email.

Michigan’s public K-12 schools have seen an overall enrollment decline the past 12 years. The state had 1,507,225 schoolchildren enrolled in the fall of 2014-15 school year, the lowest number since the state started keeping track in the 1977-78 school year.

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See also:

Michigan Grapples With Fewest Number Students in Decades

The 'Too Many School Districts' Myth

Reality Check: Michigan Public Schools Getting More Money For Fewer Students

School Choice Benefits Students