The next 15 years of high school graduates

What will the high school graduate population look like in the near- and medium-term future?  A new Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) study, Knocking at the College Door, looks at graduation rates through 2032, and thereby offers some projects with major implications for higher education.

Peace Bransberger and Demarée K. Michelau break down present numbers by total population, race, and region, along with categories for public and private schools.  Here I’ll pick out the trends that caught my futurist’s eye.

Total population: the number of high school graduates will remain at its current level for the next seven years.  As the authors put it, “the U.S. is headed into a period of stagnation.”  Then,

Three years of growth are projected for 2024 to 2026, reaching about 94,000 more graduates in 2025 (2.7 percent) than in 2013. Between 2027 and 2032, the average size of graduating classes is expected to be smaller than those in 2013.

Like so:


Why that drop a decade from now?  “the fewer number of children born during the Great Recession and the subsequent recovery enter high school through the early 2030s.”

I suspect many strategic planners for institutions focused on traditional-age students will be banking – hard – on that 2023-2025 spike.  Then planning on retiring afterwards.

Region: the South will graduate nearly one half of American high school students, from 42 to 47%.  In contrast, by 2030 the Midwest will graduate 19% and the Northeast 16%.


Clearly, the American South is, by far, the most important sector for higher education planners to examine.

Race: unsurprisingly, the white proportion of graduates will decline, while Asian and Latino populations grow steadily.  As I’ve noted before, the black population is not growing significantly.  Indeed, “the number of Black, non-Hispanic public high school graduates is projected to gradually decline by about 6 percent.”


Interesting point: if it weren’t for two races/ethnicities growing fast, the total population numbers would really drop.

Robust growth in the number of non-White public school graduates – Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islanders in particular – will act as a counterbalance to the declining numbers of White graduates…

Public versus private schools: the latter are going to be hit hard.

The number of high school graduates from private religious and nonsectarian schools is projected to decline at an even greater rate than the overall trend, from 302,000 in 2011 (the last year for which confirmed graduate counts are available for private schools) to about 220,000 by the early 2030s – a decrease of 80,000 graduates, or 26 percent…

One more note.  The authors admit that a previous WICHE projection missed the mark.  “Overall, current data reflecting the number of high school graduates are 2 to 5 percent higher for the 2009-12 school years than what the 8th edition of Knocking at the College Door projected in 2012.”  Why?

First, high school graduation rates improved more than expected.  “This is due in large part to much stronger growth and retention in the high school grades after 2010-11, and in some part to slightly greater graduation rates from 12th grade, than was previously indicated in the data.”  That’s very important.  It could also be something for the Obama administration to be proud of.

Second, the Latino population grew even faster than expected, especially in the south and west.  “Much of this difference is accounted for by the states that contribute the greatest numbers of students to the national total and that have large Hispanic high school populations, California and Texas in particular…”  So that’s interesting on its own terms, and also reminds us that these are projections, not established facts.

Overall, we’re seeing a continued shift in the high school population, meaning a transformation of the traditional-age undergraduate student body.  Our decades of college and university growth can’t continue if they rely on this populace.

What’s vital in the near- and medium-term future is the South and Latinos.  What’s less significant are whites, the northeast, and the midwest.  Texas, not Massachusetts, is where campuses will bend their attention.  Recruiters will have to heed these trends, and also focus less on private schools.

What catches your eye from this study?

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What should the online book club read next?

As 2017 dawns, our thoughts naturally turn to… our book club, and reading together!

During the end of 2016 we read We Make the Road by Walking, a major and inspiring work on education.  Readers commented in response to blog posts here, tweeted up a storm, created images, web apps, and bots.  Earlier in the year we read three near-future science fiction novels. which gave us glimpses of education’s possibilities in the context of transformed societies.  In previous years we’ve read other books on education, media, and society.

So what next?

Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American DreamWe could read another book about education.  Several recent titles have come up in conversations of late, all with living authors we might connect with via social media or video.  I could invite them to be guests on the Future Trends Forum, too:

Or we could add technology to our educational exploration:

Vernor Vinge, Rainbows EndWe could also change register and read another work of science fiction.  The crowdsourced list of titles is very rich.  From them, here are some of the more popular ones based on comments and polling:

  • Monica Byrne, The Girl in the Road
  • Cory Doctorow, For the Win
  • Will McIntosh, Soft Apocalypse
  • Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven
  • Ada Palmer, Too Like the Lightning
  • Mark Russinovich, Zero Day
  • Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story
  • Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age
  • Daniel Suarez, Daemon
  • Vernor Vinge, Rainbows End
  • Andy Weir, The Martian

For my part, I’ll commit to setting up a reading schedule, blogging notes and questions, and spurring a Twitter discussion.

What would you like to do, oh brilliant readers?

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Reading Horton and Freire into 2017

Our reading of We Make the Road By Walking continues in the new year.  Different people have been posting about their progress at their own pace, sharing reflections for the general conversation.

We muddy the road by walking, Alan Levine(You can read previous blog posts and comments discussing chapters 1-2, 3, 4, and 5-6.  There are also two posts exploring the book club’s creations: 1, 2.  Here, too, is the post describing the reading’s plan, which we’ve actually followed.)

Samantha Veneruso started reading the book, only to launch a running discussion with her mother about it, as they each took turns reading and annotating the same copy.  Both mother and daughter are teachers. What a rich conversation.

…let me tell you a little about my mom. She is almost 77. She retired from teaching 13 years ago, only to begin a second teaching career in her retirement at the institution where I teach. It is kind of a full circle, as I began my teaching career, over 20 years ago at the institution where she taught…

Teaching through the generations, as Autumm Caines put it.

Laura Ritchie dove into chapter 4 and returned with some very powerful learning.  She also plumbed chapter 3.  Adam Croom , believing he’s created a doppel-being named “Adam Levine”, reflected on his energetic creation process of reading and engaging with readers.  Alan (not Adam) Levine pounced on the notion of neutrality and applied it to social media, the American presidential election, and making.  Jason Griffey connected Cogdog’s post to one of his on the same theme via Twitter.

People continue to post on Twitter, using the #HortonFreire tag.  Liz Becker, finishing the book, reminds us of the challenge of time:

User Actions Following Liz Becker ‏@Ellsbeth Education reform won't happen overnight. It will take time and involve much struggle. #HortonFreire

Ken Bauer shared a bunch of good quotes.

This tweet from RaceAndRomance appeared…

Starting a soup kitchen; RaceAndRomance tweet

retweeted by Kyle Johnson, who observes:

"OK, I know the folks in this retweet might not get it, but to my #HortonFreire reading group, this sounds like Highlander."

Yes it does.

So what next?

Please keep on reading, folks who are in mid-chapters.  Keep sharing your reactions.

Over on Twitter, the hashtag can anchor our discussion.

And I have some final thoughts.  And then we’re onto our next book!

(muddy road photo by Alan Levine)

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My very geeky Atlantic Monthly article

the-atlantic-logoMy post about the technology and history in the new Star Wars movie got syndicated by the Atlantic Monthly.  This is the first time I’ve appeared in that journal.

At the same time a good article about the role of women’s health care in the Star Wars prequel trilogy appeared.

What should we call this kind of writing, cultural-technological analysis?  Taking movies more seriously than their fans?

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It’s time to upgrade our CRAAP detectors

Mike Caulfield’s long post about digital literacy has been getting some attention, as it should.  He thoughtfully tests some digital literacy tools against real world problems.  Caulfield also mixes in the Stanford study (my notes here).  Read the whole thing, as we say in the blogosphere.  It’s worth it.

I’d like to add a few reactions and expansions, as part of my recent return to digital literacy.

“Yes, Digital Literacy. But Which One?” has two key recommendations.  The second one (forgive me for going in reverse order) is that any digital literacy has to involve actually… using the web.  As one of his bold headers puts it,

To Gain Web Literacy You Have to Learn the Web

As Gardner Campbell, myself, and others have been saying for a while, education still has a hard time actually using the web.  We don’t embrace hyperlinks, we don’t support authoring on the open web, etc.  Caulfield joins us in this attitude, and takes it to information literacy by arguing that users should Google search for more information when running into problematic content.  They could actually click on hyperlinks.  They could even – gasp! – use Wikipedia.

Caulfield’s research example involves checking Wikipedia version changes, using Snopes, and relying on multiple Google search hits for context.  In short, “we… want… concrete web research methods and well-known markers of information quality on the web.”

Like Mike, I’m struck by the way half of the Stanford study’s students didn’t click on a link.  Why is this?  Are they terrified of malware?  Have mobile apps deskilled them from using the web?

The other big idea in Caulfield’s post is domain expertise.  That means students have to know something about the content area they’re researching.  This is obviously tricky for younger students as well as people new to a given domain.

That’s why many information literacy/fluency projects weren’t just in the library, but embedded within specific classes.  When I ran an info lit initiative at Centenary College, it was imperative to see students learning these basic principles within their classes.  I saw many other projects where students studied how different disciplines constructed meaning, and learned each field’s research tools.

This came up in the NMC report I co-authored last year.  In a passage no critic seems to have grasped, we argued for three possible ways digital literacy could unfold, including a mode embedded within specific academic domains.


Some details:

Rather than assigning the topic to a single institutional unit (e.g., the campus library), digital literacy as curriculum is diffused throughout different classes in appropriate ways that are unique to each learning context. Computer science and digital media classes can instruct on everything from office productivity applications to programming and video editing, for example. Sociology courses can teach interpersonal actions online, such as the ethics and politics of social network interaction, while psychology and business classes can focus on computer-mediated human interaction. Government and political science classes are clearly well equipped to explore the intersection of digital technology and citizenship mentioned above.

I’d like to offer one more point in addition to Caulfield’s, and it’s one that links to something I’m very passionate about: students as makers on the web.  As far as I can tell, many information/digital literacy efforts assume students/users/patrons/researchers work in isolation.  They consult the web and pick a site or document to use.

This seems to fly in the face of how people actually use the web, especially away from learning management systems.  We love to share!  We email stories to friends.  We post them on Facebook.  We pin them on Pinterest.  One reason for doing so is fact checking.  By sharing we invite commentary, feedback, reality checking, and outright opposition.  This can lead to echo chambers of like-minded people, as well as to networks where people improve their understanding.

I see this every day, literally, on Facebook and Twitter.  Someone shares a story and gets pushback.  “Did you check the date?”  “Have you looked on Snopes?”  “You know, the Washington Times isn’t the best source.”  “That’s propaganda.”  “It misreads the data.”  And so on.  Like I said, this isn’t necessarily a good thing, as people can resist such feedback.  But it can also be a way to improve our understanding.

This is how I have lived online for more than a decade.  It’s how I do my research.  I constantly share content that I have questions about, seeking clarification.  It can run the risk of embarrassment, naturally.  And some people will give feedback with, shall we say, alacrity.  Overall, it’s made me a better researcher, writer, thinker, speaker, and community member.  FTTE is ten times richer than it would have been had I note done this.

It’s also a way of living on the web, linking back to my first point.

How can digital literacy account for this practice?

Learners as makers, the importance of domain knowledge, researchers acting socially – what else did you find in Caulfield’s piece?


Posted in digital literacy, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Moving forward in dark times: two inspirations

Where do we go for inspiration and optimism?

I’ve been asking myself this over the past half year, especially when I’ve been submerged in dark times.  Obviously the Trump election has been a force for depression.  2016 has for many been an awful year (check Charlie Brooker’s brilliant Newswipe for a darkly humorous and brilliant look back). The vicissitudes of small business life include horrendously stressful periods.  My research work, too, often leads me to negativity, since, as a futurist, I have to deal with the full range of possibilities, utopian to dystopian.  I can’t shy away from forces and outcomes that are depressing, frustrating, or simply awful.

dark clouds, by quinn dombrowski

Readers here know I’ve written and spoken about the latter.  My queen sacrifice posts, for example, point to serious problems across American higher education.  The grinding combination of demographics (birth rate decline), economics (escalating inequality, booming debt, the specter of financialization), and academic policy (defensive, hierarchy-celebrating, anti-collaborative) does not usually inspire me with hope for higher ed’s future.  Our bipartisan political embrace of policies that build up a cyberpunk dystopia prove that reading sf is useful, but not enough people have done so to realize what we’re doing.

I could go on.

So as 2017 dawns, how can we move forward without giving way to despair?

Two powerful sources of inspiration have buoyed me recently, and perhaps they can give optimism to other people. Continue reading

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Me making more media: how can it be sustained in 2017?

Yesterday I posted about having two big decisions to make, looking ahead to 2017.  Both decisions concern the various future of education and technology content projects I run, including the FTTE report and the Future Trends Forum. 

Thursday’s post was about possible changes to these productions, including new efforts and possible reorganization.  I learned a lot from people’s thoughtful feedback here and elsewhere (Twitter, Facebook, emails).  I’m grateful for that.

Today’s post is about sustainability.

How can we keep doing all of this media production?

FTTE logoIt’s not a new question, but remains an urgent one.  To recap: my business generates most of its revenue through speaking engagements and consulting (see here for the latest update).  FTTE research and Future Trends Forum discussions feed into that, helping keep my work fresh, current, informed, and tested.  From an economic perspective, creating all of this stuff is part of the cost of doing business.  Or it’s a loss leader.

Yet running these projects takes up a lot of resources, especially time.  FTTE is really a part-time job, taking around 2 hours/day throughout the year, plus up to a single day of production time for each monthly report.  The Forum is also the equivalent of a part-time job, when we factor in hunting down guests, arranging each session, arranging sufficient recording spaces (remember, videoconferencing requires bandwidth, and as host I can not afford iffy connections), and a lot of extra behind the scenes work.  If I add to these two a podcast and/or game development and/or Twitter chats etc., the resource investment grows further.

Forum discussion: Anya K. and Rachel M.

The Forum really takes off when there’s bandwidth!

Let me scope this out a little further.  I’m not talking about writing books.  Those have other issues, of course, especially in the 21st century, but they do offer publisher support.  I’m not talking about books in this post.

For important context, please recall that I, my wife, and our little firm are utterly independent.  We have no endowment.  No campus or other institution hosts us.  There’s no public (government) funding involved.  Yes, I have a connection to the New Media Consortium, but it’s not a paying one. Put another way, I don’t have an NMC job.  In the past I have done some very limited and specific work for them on spec, and hope to do more, because they’re awesome.  But that has always been NMC as a one client engaging me for a specific service and/or product, limited in time, and not to sustain my futures media work.  BAC, independent, is on its own.

There is no extended family money flowing into BAC. We are – literally – a mom and pop operation.  Again, we’re on our own.

Ceredwyn and Bryan in mirror

So, in that context, can we make all of this futures media production support itself?

There’s been some success on this front so far.  NYSERNet generously supported FTTE in 2016, and I hope to continue that relationship.  Shindig has contributed not only their technology to power the Forum videoconference, but also significant staff time in the production process, which is excellent.

FTTE donate buttonIn addition, over the past two years I’ve experimented with asking people to contribute to FTTE if they’d like to, through the “pay if you like, as much as you like” option.  There have been results, but scanty ones.  Fewer than 5% of people who sign up to the report actually contribute.  The amounts tend to be under $10, and are one-time additions, rather than regular payments.  Each contribution is much appreciated!… but, so far, are not enough in aggregate to float the ship.

What else can or should we do?  Here are some options that have come up in conversation with other people, and through my research.

  1. Expand sponsorships.  These could be from businesses or nonprofits or families.  They could sponsor individual productions, or the whole combination.
  2. Set up a Patreon account for some or all of my future of education production.  Contributions would fuel my videos, podcasts, reports, and more.
  3. “ “ “ Kickstarter for a specific project, such as a podcast season, or an FTTE run, or Forum season.  I’d happily create good things for higher donors, such as special reports and unique meetings (videoconference or in person, depending).
  4. Launch in some other crowdfunding platform.
  5. Run ads, depending on the medium.
  6. Seek an institutional host or sponsor.
  7. Charge for some content, such as FTTE or special reports.
  8. “ “ face-to-face future of education workshops based on this work.  (I already do a little of this)
  9. Change nothing, and accept that these media projects are costs to bear, supported by other aspects of the BAC enterprise.
  10. Do less of this media production work in order to free up time for other tasks and services.
  11. Other?

Each of these has different costs, implications, and affordances, which I can get into if people like.

What do you think?  What would you advise?

I’m blogging here to brainstorm and seek your feedback.  I appreciate in advance your honesty and creativity.  As ever, of course, I also appreciate and am humbled by your support.

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