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EDUCATION REPORT – September 11, 2003: U.S. School Population Growth - 2003-09-10

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

About one-in-four people age three and older in the United States is a student. The government says this new school year finds more than seventy-three-million students in nursery school through college. That is out of a national population of almost two-hundred-ninety million people.

The Census Bureau estimates the number of elementary through high school students at more than fifty-three million. This is even more than there were in nineteen-sixty-nine. That was the year when the last of the "baby boom" children entered American schools.

The baby boom was a major increase in childbirth in the United States. It began in nineteen-forty-six, after World War Two, and lasted until nineteen-sixty-four.

Census Bureau studies help government agencies decide how much to spend for education. Educators say the school population growth means increased financial pressure on school systems. They need more money to help serve more students.

The student population this fall should not be a surprise. The government says there was major growth in the student population during the nineteen-nineties. A new Census Bureau report says the number increased by about twenty percent during those years. This included kindergarten students, from about age five, up through college students.

In some areas, school populations grew even more. For example, in the West, the state of Nevada had a seventy-six percent increase in students. That seemed natural enough. Nevada had the largest population growth of any state during the nineteen-nineties.

Among other numbers, the Census Bureau says twenty-six percent of high school students work while attending school. And the agency reported a reduction in the number of students who leave high school before they complete their studies. The dropout rate fell from eleven percent in nineteen-ninety to just under ten percent in two-thousand.

Another estimate says more children are attending private school now than in the past. Currently, about ten percent of all students of elementary or high school age go to private schools.

And, the Census Bureau says ninety-eight percent of public schools in the United States are connected to the Internet.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.