Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA

January 3, 2013

Iowa sees increase in student numbers

MATT MILNER
CNHI

OTTUMWA — How long has it been since Iowa's overall K-12 enrollment rose? This year's senior class wasn't even in preschool last time it happened.

The Iowa Department of Education said Thursday the state's enrollment rose this school year for the first time since 1996. That's 17 years. A total of 476,245 students are enrolled in Iowa schools this year.

The 2012-2013 year is an increase of 2,741 students over the prior school year, but it's still down over 25 percent from the peak of 654,000 students in 1972-1973.

The state points to higher birth rates nationally between 2003-2008 as the reason for the increase. That won't last, though. The national birth rate spiked in 2007, only to decline more recently.

“This statewide increase is refreshing news for Iowa after years of declining enrollment. However, the reality is that this increase most likely is temporary,” said Jay Pennington, chief of the Iowa Department of Education’s Bureau of Information and Analysis.

The increase isn't across the board for Iowa schools, either. Only half the schools in Iowa showed an increase. The others lost students. And gains are primarily focused on urban and suburban areas, rather than rural Iowa.