February 5, 2001

Contact: Bob Bruce, 503-725-5714

Study Says Oregonians See Higher Education as a Key to Future

PORTLAND - A new public opinion poll finds that Oregonians see higher education as a key to the state's economic growth over the next five years.

The study, conducted by Davis and Hibbitts, Inc. of Portland, is based on a statewide poll of 600 registered voters. The poll was conducted in early January for the Oregon University System.

It found that Oregonians remain upbeat about Oregon's economy and its future. Sixty-two percent said the state is headed in the right direction, and 75 percent or more said they believe economic conditions will be the same or better for themselves and the state over the next five years.

Some 78 percent indicated that a college education will be more important to the state's economy in five years and said Oregon's public universities are doing a better job than two years ago in educating people and spending tax dollars wisely.

"Respondents continue to believe, by very wide margins, that a college degree is vital to job prospects, and that a good higher education system is essential to maintain a strong economy," said Tim Hibbitts, who directed the telephone survey.

"It's exciting to learn that more Oregonians understand that connection," observes Joe Cox, chancellor of the Oregon University System.

"Oregon's transition to a new and sustaining economy will rely on shaping a talented and creative workforce in our state. And the best raw materials for that workforce are moving through our schools right now. We simply must continue our best efforts to invest in our own youth."

The new study found that Oregonians continue to have high expectations for the state's universities. According to the sampling, Oregonians rate as the schools' top priorities providing quality education to students, preparing graduates for work-ready careers, providing good salaries for instructors, keeping tuition low and spending tax dollars wisely.

Eight-six percent said Oregon schools should strive to compete with the nation's best, while only 11 percent said the campuses should be satisfied with "being good, not great." Those figures contrast significantly from data in a similar 1999 study in which 19 percent said good is enough and 78 percent said Oregon should aim to compete with the best.

Overall, those surveyed also offered high marks to their personal education from the state's universities and said they benefit from the public campuses. But they also cautioned about the cost of tuition. While 36 said tuition is "about right" another 45 percent said it is "too high."

The new study is the fourth in a series commissioned by OUS since 1990 to pulse public attitudes toward higher education in the state.

Below is a summary of select data from the new study with statistical comparisons between 2001 and 1999 data:

What direction are things headed in Oregon?
Right Wrong DK
2001 62% 22% 16%
1999 66% 22% 12%

How do you view future economic conditions in Oregon?
Better Worse Same DK
2001 30% 21% 45% 6%
1999 31% 18% 45% 5%

How optimistic are you about your personal financial situation?
Very Somewhat Not very Not at all DK
2001 30% 47% 12% 6% 4%
1999 30% 42% 16% 9% 4%

Will a college education be more or less important in five years?
More Less As important DK
2001 78% 3% 16% 3%
1999 67% 5% 26% 1%

Are our public universities doing a better job that five years ago?
Better Worse Same DK
2001 34% 10% 37% 18%
1999 23% 10% 43% 23%

Do you think tuition at Oregon's public universities is too high?
Too high About right Too low DK
2001 45% 36% 3% 16%
1999 51% 31% 3% 15%

How do our public universities compare with others?
Better Worse Equal DK
2001 25% 9% 59% 7%
1999 20% 10% 61% 8%

How much have Oregon's public universities benefited you?
Greatly Some Not much No benefit DK
2001 26% 34% 16% 22% 2%
1999 17% 31% 20% 29% 2%

What is your view of public higher education in Oregon?
Compete with Be good, DK
Nation's best not great
2001 86% 11% 3%
1999 78% 19% 3%

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