August 1, 2002

Contact: Bob Bruce, 503-725-5714
Source: Bob Dryden, 503-725-5705

Survey: One in Five New Students Interested in Technology Major

PORTLAND -Bucking national trends, Oregon may continue to see more incoming college students enroll in engineering or science and technology courses, according to an Oregon University System survey released today.

Twenty percent (20) of Oregon college-bound high school graduates from the class of 2002 say they might major in engineering or related technical disciplines. That's the encouraging news for Oregon businesses looking at long-term workforce needs.

But, the survey points to a huge challenge for Oregon colleges: Few women seem interested technology-oriented majors or careers. Of those students who say they are interested in engineering, only 14 percent are women while 86 percent are men.

"This tells us we must sharpen our focus and work harder to recruit young women to become technology majors," says Robert D. Dryden, vice chancellor for engineering and computer science of the Oregon University System.

Conkling Fiskum & McCormick, Inc., a Portland-based research, public affairs and strategic communications firm, conducted the telephone survey of 800 recent high-school graduates for Dryden. Interviews were conducted among students throughout Oregon in June. The survey has a margin of error of three percent plus or minus. Complete survey results may be downloaded on the vice chancellor's Web page,

"We needed to have a better understanding of the attitudes and expectations of new college students. The survey gives us important information for our recruitment efforts," Dryden noted.

Other results from the survey suggest

Seventy-three (73) percent of those interested in engineering or related majors will attend either an in-state community college or four-year Oregon university. Of the students not interested in technology-oriented majors, 66 percent will go to an Oregon college.

Oregon's college-bound high school graduates are very optimistic. Seventy (70) percent say things in Oregon are on the right track. Another survey conducted for the Oregon University System in June revealed only one-third of all Oregonians agrees with them.

Not surprisingly, there is a strong undercurrent of concern about the economy. Overall, eight out of 10 students (84 percent) say they are concerned about getting a job after graduation. Students interested in engineering or related disciplines are somewhat less concerned (69 percent) about their job prospects.

There's also useful information for college recruiters. The study found that:

Only 17 percent of Oregon students interested in engineering or related disciplines leave the state for college as compared to 24 percent of those interested in non-technical majors.

Thirty (30) percent of all students interested in engineering or related disciplines plan to attend an Oregon community college, compared to 35 percent for all Oregon high school graduates.

Of the students interested in engineering or related majors who plan to attend an Oregon four-year public university, 56 percent chose Oregon State University, 15 percent enrolled at Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, 12 percent selected Portland State University, and 17 percent selected other four-year colleges in Oregon and 7 percent enrolled in an Oregon private college.

Fifty-two (52) percent of all students say campus visits strongly influence their college decision. In order of importance, students say the following were important to their specific college decision: brochures, 38 percent; informational meetings, 30 percent:; college Web sites, 17 percent; contact with admissions office, 12 percent, and participation in campus activity, 10 percent. In terms of the most effective way of influencing prospective students, there are no significant differences between students interested in engineering or related disciplines and other students.

This year's graduates are focused on practical issues. Nearly all the respondents say the most important factors in deciding where to go to college are cost and the perception of educational value, such as faculty commitment to teaching, internship programs and career preparation.

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