By: Andrea Thomas Brandley
Can you think of anything better than crisp new school supplies, planning a new school routine, and the excitement of embarking on another year of learning? Okay, okay, I’m not naïve. I recognize you can probably think of a hundred things. But as someone who has always wanted to go to school forever, I love the start of a new school year. Even though I am no longer a formal student or teacher, I can feel a shift in the air as nearly a million Utah K-12 and college students get ready to start a new school year.
As the school year begins, let’s get to know Utah’s student population. Here are ten key facts about Utah’s public K-12 and post-secondary students1.
Utah’s K-12 public school students
- Approximately 675,000 students attend Utah’s public schools with about 88% attending a school in one of Utah’s 41 school districts and 12% enrolling in one of more than 100 charter schools.
- School district sizes vary greatly from less than 200 students in Daggett School District to more than 80,000 students in Alpine School District.
- Utah’s K-12 students are more diverse than the state as a whole – nearly 30% of students are students of color. Four Utah school districts (Granite, Ogden, Salt Lake, and San Juan) are now majority-minority, meaning more than half of their student population are students of color.
- Additionally, about one-third of Utah K-12 students are economically disadvantaged (as measured by qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch), 8% are English language learners, and 12% are students with disabilities.
- Demographic projections show that Utah’s school-age population is estimated to grow by about 100,000 students over the next forty years, with about 2/3 of this growth expected in Utah County.2
Utah’s public post-secondary students
- About 230,000 students attend public post-secondary institutions in Utah with nearly 200,000 students attending Utah’s public degree-granting institutions and about 30,000 enrolled in Utah’s technical colleges.
- More female students (53%) are enrolled in Utah’s public post-secondary institutions than male students (47%).
- Age 18-24 is often considered the “college-age” population. In Utah’s public post-secondary institutions, about 55% of students are in this age range while about 17% of students are under age 18 and 28% of students are age 25 or older.
- Approximately 22% of public post-secondary students are students of color, similar to Utah’s total population.
- More than half (54%) of public post-secondary students attend part-time.
Utah’s public schools and colleges educate a large diverse group of students. More than 1 in 4 Utah residents are enrolled in school, gaining knowledge and skills to help them grow individually, prepare for the future, and better contribute to our state’s society and economy. Understanding the demographic make-up of the student population can help educators, school administrators, and government and community leaders better meet their needs.
To all the students and teachers embarking on a new year, good luck! Enjoy those crisp new school supplies, planning a new school routine, and the excitement of embarking on another year of learning. I’ll be living vicariously through you.
Andrea Thomas Brandley is the senior education analyst at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute and a former teacher in Utah’s K-12 public schools.
Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position of the Gardner Institute. We hope the opinions shared contribute to the marketplace of ideas and help people as they formulate their own INFORMED DECISIONS™.
1 Facts are based on most recently available data (2021-2022 academic year). Enrollment and demographic data on Utah’s K-12 students can be found here on the Utah State Board of Education (USBE) website while higher education enrollment and demographic data can be found on this Utah System of Higher Education dashboard.
2 Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, 2020-2060 Projections, https://gardner.utah.edu/demographics/projections/