The Changing Demographic Context of Postsecondary Education

by Peter A. Morrison

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In 1982, in the United States, 3.7 million babies were born who will, if they stay in school and graduate, make up the class of the year 2000. By early in the 21st century, these young adults will be finishing their education and joining the work force. They will compete within a global labor market where verbal and mathematical literacy and intellectual skills will count more than ever. This paper discusses the demographic shifts bound to have an enduring effect on the postsecondary education of those young adults. The key points are: demographic change will weaken the capacity of individual families to finance postsecondary education for their children; demographic change will transform the foundations of public support for financing postsecondary education; and in ethnically diverse states like California, demographic change will transform the mission of postsecondary education.

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