By the year 2001, women will earn more doctoral degrees than men for the first time, there will be more high school graduates than the 1977 peak and the ranks of classroom teachers will swell, the Education Department projected.

In a separate report, the American Council on Education said Wednesday that higher-education enrollment increased during the 1980s, with the most growth found at community colleges.The trends for the next 10 years are included in the Education Department's publication, "Projections of Education Statistics to 2001."

"This should be very helpful for local school districts and colleges and universities for their planning purposes," said Assistant Education Secretary Christopher Cross.

For the federal government, "The information will help us try and determine where the growth is and where our investment should be, for scholarships, student loans, etc.," Cross said.

In 1976, women earned 7,800 doctor's degrees, while men earned 26,300, the department said. Trends now indicate the ratio will flip. By 2001, women are expected to earn 18,900 doctor's degrees, while men will earn just 17,300.

"There's more opportunity for them (women)," Cross explained. "Professions are opening up for them in math and science and there's a lot of encouragement for them to enter these fields."

David Merkowitz, spokesman for the American Council on Education, which represents colleges and universities, added, "There is more of an impetus for women to go on and get graduate education because of the way the credential will open up an increasing number of job opportunities for them."

However, the Education Department said men will continue to earn more professional degrees than women in such fields as medicine and law.

Higher-education enrollment is expected to increase by about 1 million students by 2001 - from 13.4 million in 1989 to 14.4 million, mostly at public institutions, the department said.

The American Council on Education's survey also anticipated an increase, mostly at community colleges, based on data from the 1980s.

Increases in enrollment at community colleges between fall 1989 and fall 1990 ranged between 2 percent and 6 percent, compared with increases of 1 percent to 3 percent at four-year colleges and universities.

Community colleges are less expensive and offer occupational training courses that can lead to immediate employment, the council said.

Highlights of the Education Department's report for elementary and secondary grades:

- Total enrollment, now at 46.2 million, will continue to increase during the 1990s. By 1998, it is expected to reach 50.1 million but will decline after 1998 to 49.8 million in 2001.

- Enrollment will vary during the 1990s, with sizable increases expected in New Mexico (39 percent), Arizona and New Hampshire (33 percent), Colorado and Florida (24 percent) and Georgia and New Jersey (22 percent). Decreases are expected in West Virginia (13 percent) and Washington, D.C. (10 percent).