July 16, 2002

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

Study Shows Oregonians Head to College in Record Numbers

EUGENE - Record numbers of Oregon high school graduates are heading to college.

In fact, a record 68.7 percent from the Class of 2001 enrolled in a college or university in the fall following their high school graduation, and by the second term, that number increased by another 6.3 percent.

Plus, officials say that with continuing enrollment likely, as many as 90 percent of the 2001 Class could be in college within 18 months of their high school graduation.

"Students recognize the value and economic necessity of a college education, and it shows in the growing numbers enrolling in college," said Ruth Keele, senior institutional research analyst and chief author of the survey report.

The new findings come from a report to be delivered to the State Board of Higher Education on Friday, July 19.

The report is titled "Where Have Oregon's Graduates Gone?" It's the fifth in a biennial survey series done by the Oregon University System to help state officials track student choices after high school and understand why students make different choices.

The new data shows that since the studies began in 1993, greater and greater numbers of Oregon high school graduates have opted for college, exceeding even national enrollment rates.

According to the new report, some 64.4 percent of male students and 73.1 percent of female students from Oregon's graduating class of 2001 enrolled directly in a postsecondary institution in the fall following their high school commencement. National data for the year 2000 show only 59.9 men and 66.2 women followed the same pattern.

Among all of the Oregon high school graduates surveyed for the new report, 42.2 percent enrolled in a four-year college or university during fall or winter term, while 32.4 percent selected a two-year college. Those numbers are similar to trends shown in earlier studies.

The new data shows that Oregon community colleges drew the largest single percentage of college-bound students with 29.8 percent enrolled from the Class of 2001. Close behind in popularity were the state's seven public universities with 24.5 percent of enrollment.

The number of students leaving Oregon to attend college also continues to decline. In 1995, when state support for higher education was on a downward spin, 13.7 percent of the state's graduating class first began their college careers outside the state. In 2001, that number dropped to 11.4 percent. Fewer, too, of the state's high achieving students (GPA of 3.75 or above) are leaving the state and more are enrolling in OUS universities than in the past.

According to the new study, academic reputation ranks as the top concern for those headed to four-year schools. The availability of a desired program, location, and cost considerations also rank high.

The study confirms that students are still concerned about how they will pay for their college education. For students enrolled at OUS universities, affordability was second only to academic reputation as the most important reason for their choice. Scholarships and financial aid play a particularly important role for students choosing more expensive independent and out-of-state colleges.

According to this survey, "concerns about potential cuts to OUS academic programs, though somewhat abated since the Class of 1999, continue to be an issue in college-choice decisions, particularly among graduates choosing to remain in Oregon."

The full survey report will soon be posted on the OUS website at www.ous.edu

The Gilmore Research Group, an independent Portland research firm, conducted the sampling and interviewing under the direction of the OUS Office of Institutional Research. All the survey work was done during March and April 2002 using telephone interviews with some 1,014 members of the state's senior class of 2001 who were selected at random.

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