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January, 2018

By Kelly Asche, Research Associate

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The number of students choosing to open enroll in Greater Minnesota has been trending upward consistently since the policy was developed, but within the last ten years, these patterns have been intensifying, and in such a way that they are impacting how districts plan their programming, busing, and finances. Many districts are even be forced to rethink their communications strategies to take advantage of the growing inflow of students into their districts or to slow the outflow of students away from their districts.

And with the continuing decline in enrollment in rural districts (64% of rural districts have a lower enrollment in 2017 compared to 2006), it isn’t surprising that a cordial competition for these students has sprung up. Fewer students equals fewer dollars for salaries, facilities, and programs.

More Students Choosing to Open Enroll

Within the churn of open enrollment, a pattern has emerged over the last ten years where now nearly half of the school districts outside the seven-county metro area fall into two categories: i) districts that have experienced a net gain in open enrollment students every year, or ii) districts that have experienced a net loss in open enrollment every year.

For this analysis we divided districts in Greater Minnesota into two groups, “rural” and “regional center.” For definitions of how we arrived at these categories, see section Geographic Types Explained. Figure 1 shows that 41% of regional center school districts and 43% of rural districts fall into one of these two categories.