How have the number of students in NH public schools changed over time?

This article is part of our Whole Picture of Public Education project, which uses state and national data to answer the question: what influences student learning? For more information, visit

In most areas of New Hampshire, the number of school-aged children is decreasing. From fewer babies being born, to fewer young families moving into the state, the K-12 student population has decreased by 12% in less than a decade. As many communities adjust to  sharp reductions in their student populations, they face challenges, from how it impacts their budgets and communities, physical space, staffing, and more. 

Fewer students may also mean fewer resources, since the state funds schools on a per-student basis. Schools that have had the largest decreases in students have had to lay off teachers and reduce course offerings, consolidate with other districts, or find other ways to manage tighter budgets. 

In 2017, there were roughly 25,000 fewer students in our public schools than a decade earlier. And, research suggests that student enrollment is set to decline even more. 

However, there are some districts that experienced an upward trend: about 30 NH communities had more students in 2017 than in 2008. Most of these districts were in the southern tier of the state, particularly on the Seacoast. 

In many cases, these numbers are slight–Exeter, for example, had fewer than 10 additional students in the decade, out of a total student population of about 2,150 students. And the districts with the largest percentage increase often had relatively small increases in the actual numbers of students: Surry increased 85% between 2008 and 2017, from 58 students to 107 students. 

Use the map below to find out how student enrollment in your district has changed between 2008 and 2017. There are two ways to find your district:

  1. Hover over your district to show a popup with the total K-12 student enrollment for 2008 and 2017, and the percent change between the years; and,
  2. Use the “Search for a District” tool in the top right corner. You can either select the school district name from the alphabetical dropdown list, or you can begin typing in the name of your school district (not town) to filter the district list.

You might be wondering…

The profile shows that my district has students, but we don’t have any schools in our town. Why?

These student enrollment numbers are the number of public school students who live in your district, whether or not they attend the schools that are operated by your district. Students would be counted in this figure if they attend public, academy, or private schools as part of a tuition agreement.

The profile shows that my district has 2,500 students, but we have about 1,900 students who attend our elementary and middle schools, and 1,400 students who attend our high school. Shouldn’t that number be 3,300?

These student enrollment numbers include only the number of students who live in your district. Students who attended schools in your district from other towns are not included in the enrollment figure.  

For example, High School A accepts students from three other districts (Districts B, C, and D) as part of a tuition agreement. The student enrollment figure for District A, which operates High School A, only includes students who live in District A. District B’s students, even though they attend school at High School A, are counted in District B’s enrollment numbers. 

Do these numbers include all children between the ages of 5 and 18?

No, this enrollment data does not include students who lived in your district but attended charter schools, private schools, or who were homeschooled.

Check out more of our research on student learning in New Hampshire: 

Check out our other resources and tools:

  • comprehensive report, which uses five stories of New Hampshire families to guide readers through the project’s core findings and encourages them to consider their real-life implications;
  • Interactive data visualizations, which allow users to explore and ask questions of the data;
  • Community and school district profiles, which help individuals build a better understanding of their own communities (to be released soon); and,
  • The methodology of the study, including appendices for our statistical models.