Thesis Title

School Responses to Declining Enrollment

Graduation Date

Spring 2003

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Science

Program Name


Program Director

Madalienne F. Peters, EdD


Rural schools across the nation are experiencing declining enrollment—they are losing students. A loss of enrollment means a loss of funding and a potential decline in the quality of programs and services. Most school funding formulas are based on average daily attendance, ADA, or cost per pupil. As students leave, so does the money. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that the loss of students does not lead to an immediate and equal decline in expenses. When a district encounters a clear and pervasive trend of declining enrollment, the school board and administrators must decide how to cut expenses and/or raise revenues. Some districts eliminate programs or staff; others close or consolidate schools. In some cases, schools are being taken over by for- profit management companies. Much of the existing research, literature, and public interest have so far been directed at identifying the causes of the problem. Any emphasis on solutions has focused on reorganization efforts that do little to creatively address the quality of instruction or services. This thesis examines the efforts of a few small, rural schools to reverse the negative effects of declining enrollment Central findings focus on program refoim aimed at maintaining or even improving program quality and integrity while dealing with reduced school funding based on student attendance. Participating schools are defined as small schools (less than 600 students) or districts (less than 1,000 in all) in rural areas, and have all experienced a decrease in allocation monies due to a decline in student enrollment for an extended period of time. Sites were located through a literature search.

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