April 16, 1999            

Contact: Bob Bruce, 503-725-5714
Source: Nancy Goldschmidt, 541-346-5747

Higher Ed Report Shows Gains in Access, Quality, Employability of Graduates

MONMOUTH - A new performance report unveiled Friday by the Oregon State Board of Higher Education shows a 10-year trend of improvement in access to higher education, graduate quality and the employability of graduates from Oregon's public universities. It also reports better fiscal efficiency, except for a growing backlog of deferred maintenance on Oregon University System campuses.

The new overall performance report card is the first ever issued by the Oregon University System. It is an attempt to measure progress and demonstrate public accountability under a performance-based strategic plan formulated by the State Board of Higher Education in 1997. The plan establishes four primary goals in the areas of public access, quality, employability and cost-effectiveness, and sets performance targets for each campus through 2005.

The report compares aggregate campus data for the 1987-88 and 1997-98 academic years. In some areas, other base years were used when data were not available.

Oregon's public universities showed the most consistent improvement toward the goals of quality and employability.

Among students who entered OUS campuses in 1987, 49 percent of the freshmen and 57 percent of those transferring from community colleges earned an undergraduate degree in six years. By comparison, 55 percent of freshmen in 1991 and 63 percent of 1989 transfers completed their degrees over the same six-year period.

The report shows that Oregon public university students continue to exceed both state and national averages on professional licensure examinations in the fields of accounting, engineering, pharmacy, social work and veterinary medicine.

In addition, more are completing internships and completing degree work in high-demand work force areas. The report says 57 percent of 1997-98 OUS graduates had completed internships, compared to only 51 percent in 1994-95. It shows a modest 10-year increase in graduates with engineering, computer science, mathematics and science degrees (1,983 to 2,084) and a three-fold increase of graduates in high-demand teacher education fields, such as special education, counseling, bilingual education and speech therapy (167 to 470).

In the area of access, the report says the percentage of freshman with a 3.25 grade point average or above increased from 11 to 19 percent during the 10-year period, while the ethnic and minority enrollment jumped from 7.9 to 12.6 percent.

But declines were reported for the percent of Oregon high school graduates enrolled (from 23 to 20 percent), the number of community college transfer students enrolled (from 2,598 in 1987-88 to 2,428 in 1997-98) and graduate satisfaction. In 1994-95, some 72 percent of OUS graduates rated their education "very good" or higher. In 1997-98, that rating was given by 63 percent of the graduates.

OUS officials said rapid tuition increases and program elimination in the wake of Measure 5 may have contributed to lower performance in those areas.

The report shows cost-effectiveness gains in improving fund balances, and attracting sponsored research. But it signals a growing problem with the deferred maintenance on public university campuses. While balances grew from 4 to 7 percent of current fund expenditures, and research dollars increased from $140.3 million to $173.4 million, the maintenance backlog increased from 10 to 18 percent of the current plant replacement value. A recent study estimated the total cost of that deferred maintenance at more than $390 million.

Click on this link to view a table summarizing data presented during Friday's meeting.



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