Student enrollment continues to slide in the Granite State
CONCORD, NH — Following pace with general trends across much of the country, New Hampshire’s student enrollment continues to shrink – marking a steady, downward trend for more than two decades.
This week, the New Hampshire Department of Education (NHED) released its statewide student enrollment numbers for the fall of 2023. At the start of the current 2023-2024 academic year, 165,095 students were officially enrolled in New Hampshire public and public charter schools compared to 167,357 at the start of the previous 2022-2023 school year – a 1.4 percent decline. Since 2002, student enrollment numbers in the Granite State have dropped from 207,684 to 165,095, which represents a decrease of 42,589 public school students, or about a 20.5 percent decline during the past 21 years.
“Throughout the past two decades, there has been an average decline of nearly 2,200 students per year. While there are multiple factors that result in declining student enrollment, it is apparent that New Hampshire has a lower school-age population,” said Frank Edelblut, education commissioner. “With demographic changes across the state that include an aging population and low birth rates, communities and school districts statewide are having challenging conversations needed to address funding, staffing, class offerings and more.”
Throughout the past 10 years, long-term enrollment trends have varied. New Castle had the greatest enrollment drop at 45 percent, followed by Stewartstown’s 41 percent decline. Districts with the highest enrollment increase in the past decade include Marlow with a 68 percent hike and Landaff with a 50 percent jump.
Manchester remains the largest school district in the state with 11,851 students (down from 12,016 last year), followed by Nashua with 9,773 (down from 9,915 last year), Bedford at 4,065 (down from 4,159 last year), Londonderry with 3,996 (down from 4,093 last year) and Concord with 3,933 (down from 4,025 last year).
“Understanding that enrollment numbers can fluctuate, the state’s largest five school districts experienced noticeable enrollment declines since last year, as well as numerous smaller districts. Schools should be exploring ways to address the short-term and long-term enrollment dip, keeping in mind that the ultimate goal is to improve student outcomes,” added Edelblut.
Larger school districts have seen substantial declines in enrollment since 2014, including Manchester with an 18 percent dip, Nashua with a 13 percent drop and Concord with a 14 percent lag. Some districts that have managed to pick up additional students throughout the past 10 years include Auburn with a 19 percent increase, Bow with a 24 percent raise and Hollis with an 11 percent increase.
The longer term effect of these declines were also a factor in a 13 percent drop in enrollment at the University System of New Hampshire public institutions from 2019 to 2023, according to a recent annual report.