Oregon: Fewer than 60% of Graduates Enrolled in College

Oregon has fallen far short of its goal to send 8 out of 10 high school graduates to college. New data collected by The Oregonian found that only 59% of graduates from the state enrolled in college last year. Although last year’s estimates, drawn from polling seniors about their college plans, predicted higher percentage of college attendance, the final results provided by the Student Clearing House showed that those estimates were overly optimistic.

New statistics provided to every Oregon school district this month,drawn from the nation’s premier source of college enrollment verification, show how many graduates in the class of 2009 enrolled in college anywhere in the country by fall 2010.

From Hillsboro schools, just 60 percent did. From Forest Grove, just 53 percent did. Even in Sherwood, solidly middle-class with a reputation for strong schools, just 71 percent of 2009 grads tried community college or university, the figures show.

The results puzzled Rebecca Barton, the college and career coordinator of Sherwood High School. In 2009 she estimated that 90% of seniors had firm college plans, crediting the high percentage to constantly reinforced message to the student body on the importance of college education. She couldn’t explain the nearly 20% discrepancy, saying that Sherwood was a college-minded community.

The percentages of college attendees seemed to be closely tied to the income of the students’ families. Communities with few low-income residents tended to send higher percentage of their children to college.

Lake Oswego, with few low-income students, saw 85 percent of 2009 grads enroll in college. In Forest Grove, by contrast, more than half of students come from poor families, and barely more than half go to college.

Still, some districts defied this trend, some drastically. Gladstone, which The Oregonian describes as “solidly blue-collar,” where 40% of students are classified as low-income and where only 13% of adults hold four-year degrees sent off an astonishing 74% of its graduates to college in 2010, a higher percentage than many higher-income districts that surround it.

Gladstone educators said that’s because they help students forge a tight bond with Clackamas Community College, in part by helping students earn lots of inexpensive community college credits at Gladstone High.

As at other schools, however, Gladstone educators said they are having to trim or eliminate some proven techniques because the state budget has them in a vise

Time will tell if the new fiscal realities will find districts like Gladstone giving back some of their hard-earned gains.