Press Release

Contact: Di Saunders – Office, 503-725-5714; Cell, 503-807-5539
Source: Ruth Keele, Director, Performance Measurement & Outcomes: 541-346-5754

Study Finds Majority of Oregon H.S. Grads Pursue College

Yet enrollment declines seen among males, Hispanic/Latino students, and more high achievers leaving Oregon

PORTLAND, September 6 – A study released today by the Oregon University System, Where Have Oregon’s Graduates Gone?, indicates that almost 73% of Oregon’s high school class of 2005 enrolled in a 2- or 4-year college by the fall or winter following graduation. This biennial study – the seventh in a series – seeks to identify the proportion of the graduating class who attended a postsecondary institution, the type of college they selected, and the reasons for their choices, to better understand the decisions of Oregon’s high school graduates.

While the Oregon rate continues to exceed the national average for immediate enrollment after high school – and is ten percentage points higher than in the first Oregon survey in 1993 – it is down from the two previous surveys and the 2001 enrollment high mark of 75%. Female graduates in Oregon are attending college at higher rates than their male counterparts by winter term after graduation, 79.4% and 66.7%, respectively, with male enrollment rates down from the same study in 2001. Enrollment rates were lower for every racial/ethnic group except African-Americans and Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders, with Oregon’s African-American graduates enrolled in larger proportions than the U.S. average for this group.

“While we’re pleased to see our high school graduates pursuing college at higher rates than seen in some other states, there are some troubling trends that reflect Oregon’s inability to adequately fund postsecondary education and serve our under-represented students,” says George Pernsteiner, chancellor of the Oregon University System (OUS). “Students who are not enrolling are often shut out by costs, more of our highest achieving high school graduates are leaving the state to attend college, and the enrollment rates for Oregon’s American Indian and Hispanic/Latino graduates have declined in the last 5 years from an already low rate.” Among the high school graduates surveyed, 39% were attending a public or private 4-year university or college, either in- or out-of-state, after winter term; and 33% were attending a 2-year college, with about three-quarters of these students noting definite or likely plans to transfer to an OUS institution at a later time.

Among high achieving students with a high school GPA of 3.75 or higher, OUS institutions remained the most popular choice, selected by 38% of students, with 27% of students attending an out-of-state institution, 16% selecting an Oregon private institution, and 17% choosing an Oregon community college. “In future studies we’ll be watching the numbers of high achievers who choose to go to college out-of-state,” said Ruth Keele, principal investigator of the report and director of performance measurement and outcomes for OUS. “For ten years we had seen a steady, positive increase in the numbers of academically talented students staying in the state to attend college. When we began looking at high achievers a decade ago – following the Measure 5 cuts to higher education – 42% of these students left the state for college. That figure had steadily declined to about one-quarter in 2003, but with the class of 2005 we may be seeing a reversal of this trend.”

For students who chose not to go to college (27% of respondents), an inability to afford college, a work schedule that precludes school, and a desire to take a break from school were the top reasons cited. Of those not currently enrolled, about two-thirds reported that they had definite or probable plans to enroll in the next year. Male respondents were significantly more likely than female graduates to indicate that they definitely do not plan to attend college.

In making the important choice of which college to attend, Oregon graduates weighed a number of factors. For those who chose four-year universities, academic reputation was the factor most often considered very or somewhat important.  Cost issues – including scholarships, financial aid, and overall cost of attendance – also figured prominently.  Other top reasons cited by respondents were the availability of a desired major program, proximity to/distance from home, campus social environment, and size of the college.

Seven disciplines were among the top 10 choices for both 4- and 2-year college students: Business, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Engineering, Fine Arts, Health Professions, and Education. While the popularity of Health Professions majors has increased among 4-year respondents, there has been decreased enrollment in Health Professions among students in 2-year colleges. “Also worth watching are the smaller proportions of students at both 2-year and 4-year institutions who are pursuing majors in Education,” noted Keele. “Certain areas of education, such as math, science, and bi-lingual education, continue to face critical teacher shortages in Oregon that could negatively affect future K-12 student achievement.”  Keele noted that the proportion of high school graduates choosing Engineering has held steady at 4-year universities since 2001 and has grown among 2-year students.

Survey results again confirm that a parent’s education does matter. Two-thirds of respondents attending a 4-year institution had at least one parent with a 4-year degree, compared to one-third of those enrolled in 2-year colleges, and just over one-quarter of those not currently going to college.

For a full copy of the Where Have Oregon’s Graduates Gone report, go to, to Featured Documents on the OUS Home Page.

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