July 19, 2000 

Contact: Bob Bruce, 503-725-5714
Source: Susan Weeks, 541- 346-5743
Ruth Keele, 541-346-5754

More Oregon High School Grads Attending Higher Education

EUGENE - Oregon high school graduates are going on to college in record numbers.

A new study of Oregon's 1999 high school graduating class shows that nearly 70 percent enrolled directly in college, and as many as 84 percent may become college students within 18 months of their high school graduation.

That's a 3 percent higher rate of enrollment than two years ago when the Oregon University System did a similar study of the state's 1997 high school graduates.

"With each survey we've done, we see more high school graduates attending college and more attending an OUS school," said Susan Weeks, OUS chief information officer, and one of the authors of the study. "The students and parents we surveyed certainly place a high value on a quality four-year education."

The data come from a continuing study, titled "Where Have Oregon's Graduates Gone?," completed this summer by OUS. It's the fourth in a series begun in 1993 to track the progression of students from Oregon high schools. 

The report, which will be presented to the State Board of Higher Education on Friday, July 21, shows that some 66.9 percent of the state's 1999 graduating class were enrolled in college the following fall term and an additional 3.6 percent went on to college one term later. Those are the highest levels reported since OUS began its biennial survey of the state's high school graduates in 1993.

The new study shows that 41 percent of the 1999 class chose to begin their college career at a four-year campus. Among them, Oregon's public universities drew 23.9 percent of the total and Oregon's independent colleges enrolled 3.7 percent while 13.3 opted to select out-of-state campuses. In 1997, only 35.3 percent chose to begin college on a four-year campuses (19.4 percent at an OUS campus, 5.3 percent at an Oregon independent college and 10.2 percent out-of-state).

Officials say the good news is that Oregon appears to be holding steady in retaining the state's best and brightest. In 1997, roughly 34.5 percent of the state's high achievers - those with self-reported grade point averages of 3.75 and above - left the state for college. Among 1999 graduates the percentage was 34.1 percent - a meaningless difference considering that the study's margin for error was plus or minus 2.7 percent. 

Availability of a desired program, cost, academic reputation and proximity ranked as the major reasons students chose one college over another, according to the study.

The chance to attend programs in their desired field of study ranked as the most important factor for the 1999 graduates choosing an Oregon public university. Eighty-seven percent of respondents said this factor was either "very important" or "somewhat important." Cost, too, was a key factor. More than 50 percent of the OUS enrollees - nearly double the number from 1997 -- said a scholarship offer influenced their decision. 

Said the parent of one OUS student quoted in the study, "They offer a lot of scholarships to keep the kids with high GPAs in Oregon rather than have them go out of state. That made a difference for a lot of kids."

Attending school close to home ranked as an important factor for 75 percent of those choosing an Oregon public university or community college and for 58 percent for those who chose an Oregon independent college campus. Conversely, 67 percent of those who left the state said "wanting to leave Oregon" was a major reason for their choice. Academic reputation ranked as the most important consideration by the 1999 graduates who chose to attend an out-of-state institution or an Oregon independent college.

Ironically, many in the class of 1999 expressed concern about the stability of OUS programs and activities even though Oregon's public universities have not experienced major cutbacks since 1993. Officials believe proposed ballot initiatives may already be causing concern among Oregon students and their parents.

The new study also shows some differences in college attendance by region and ethnic group. Students from the Portland metropolitan area were the most likely to attend college. Among 1999 graduates, 77.8 percent of high school graduates from the Portland metropolitan area enrolled in college, compared to 69.2 percent of Central Oregon graduates and 64.8 percent from other regions of the state. But while whites and non-whites (taken as a whole) were as likely to attend college (70.5 to 70.4 percent), Asian Americans had the highest enrollment rates at 86.3 percent and American Indians the lowest at 47.8 percent. The rates for African-Americans and Hispanic/Latinos were reported at 66.7 percent and 63 percent respectively.

Among those 1999 graduates who chose not to attend college, the reasons most frequently cited were work, costs and the desire for a break from school.

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