Demographic Data Let Colleges Peer Into the Future

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John Amis for The Chronicle

Kindergarteners at Nesbit Elementary School, outside Atlanta

Until just a few years ago, colleges could anticipate classes of high-school graduates each bigger than the last. Two decades of steady supply drove enrollment growth and let campuses be choosy, gathering freshmen with good test scores and parents who could pay. But those days are over.

Peer into kindergarten classrooms across the country, and you will see fewer students. For every 100 18-year-olds nationally, there are only 95 4-year-olds. The Northeast