VIP Focus: Three Ways Districts Can Plan for the Future With Enrollment Projections

Submitted by Paul Wills, Partner, Plante Moran

DashBoard, Sept. 20, 2017

Plante Moran

Your school district relies heavily on student enrollment for funding, future academic offerings and logistical decisions. Accordingly, a reliable estimate of the future enrollment in your district is essential to making the most informed operational and facility-related decisions. This valuable information is generated by pupil enrollment projections.

Pupil enrollment projections draw conclusions about future student enrollment patterns from a set of data pertaining to your district, your surrounding community, demographics and trends going forward. As such, enrollment projection models must account for the following information to be accurate:

  • Historical enrollment—Pupil head count by grade, or full-time equivalent membership count by grade, for the current school year plus the past six consecutive school years. The official “count days” for districts are the first Tuesday in October and the first Tuesday in the subsequent February.
  • Community population trend statistics—Geographical information systems information and demographics information from within the boundaries of your district. This includes live births, income levels, age groups, household migration and similar data.
  • Potential housing developments—The number of future housing developments within the district boundary and surrounding area. These developments could affect pupil membership in the future.

Projections can be made to canvas the entire district’s programming, including special education, adult education and alternative education. The scope can also be narrowed to drill down into a particular focus area, such as grade level, building or even classroom.

How Enrollment Projections Help Districts Plan for the Future

The wealth of information generated by a pupil enrollment projection can have a significant impact on the district’s plan for the future. Here are three ways your district can plan for the future with pupil enrollment projections.

  1. Financial budgeting

Accurate enrollment projections can help you estimate your district’s future operational budget, allowing you the time to review current costs (staffing, transportation, food service and facility use) and overlay the needs of future students.

  1. Facility utilization

The second largest item in the school budget is facility costs. Enrollment data allows you to assess your district’s facility needs in terms of total square footage, technology, class sizes, grade configurations, staffing needs, transportation routing, and facility and building configurations to ensure each building is being fully utilized. Right-sizing your district could save millions of dollars.

  1. Short- and long-term planning for bond work, renovations and new construction

Enrollment projections provide districts with both short-and long-term information to guide planning for the district’s future. Detailed pupil enrollment projections allow your school board to adequately plan for expansion, contraction, renovation, construction and academic opportunities. Having a data-verified plan is essential to preserving your district’s operational dollars and maneuvering the district into the best position to fulfill its mission.

Many school districts have greatly benefited from the data an accurate pupil enrollment project provides. A reliable estimate of the future enrollment can help you make the most informed decisions for the future of your district.

Paul Wills, AIA, LEED AP is a Partner at Plante Moran. He can be reached at or 248.223.3316.

VIP Focus articles are company-sponsored advertisements and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of MASB. It’s intended to provide Very Important Partners with a space to share information of value to you and your district.

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