Inequities in Student Success for Oregon Public College Students


SALEM — Oregonians’ widespread need for education and training beyond high school is met primarily at public colleges and universities, but many face affordability challenges and serious inequities in finishing their programs.

These are the latest findings from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission’s (HECC) Statewide Snapshots, a data-focused summary on three topics of interest in higher education today ― enrollment, affordability, and outcomes.

The Snapshots illustrate that Oregon’s 24 public community colleges and universities continue to open doors of opportunity, enrolling more than 330,799 Oregon undergraduates in 2017-18 of diverse ages, races, ethnicities and backgrounds. They pursue a wide variety of instructional fields on their pathways from college to career. However, Oregonians served by public postsecondary institutions continue to face steep challenges.

Affordability challenges are pervasive, with 42 percent of students unable to meet college expenses, even after taking into account expected family contributions, public grants, and estimated student earnings. While graduation rates have been slowly increasing over time, large percentages of students do not complete degrees or certificates, or transfer in the standard time periods. Forty-eight percent of new credential-seeking community college students graduate with a credential or transfer to a university within four years, and 65% of first-time, full-time university freshmen graduate within six years. The research shows significant disparities in graduation rates by race and ethnicity — driving a continued statewide focus on equity and student success.

“Oregon students — our children, families, friends, and neighbors — rely on the quality postsecondary options our public institutions offer,” says Ben Cannon, executive director of the HECC. “The Snapshots show the magnitude of impact our public institutions have on hundreds of thousands of students, but also shine a light on disparities in college access and success, particularly for students of color.”

Cannon said, “These findings are a call to action for everyone working in education. We need to ensure that Oregonians from every background and zip code can build the successful future they depend on, and our communities depend on.”

For a summary of statewide findings, see the Statewide Snapshot Fact Sheet here. By clicking on the locations of interest on the Oregon map here, readers can explore all Snapshots including the aggregate statewide data summaries.

About Author

Endi Hartigan is the Communications Director for the State of Oregon's Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC). The HECC envisions a future in which all Oregonians—and especially those whom our systems have underserved and marginalized—benefit from the transformational power of high-quality postsecondary education and training.

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