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State’s College Attendance Rates May Hit Economy Hard

Jun 10, 2024


Data analyzed in June revealed that students in Oregon are attending college in lower and lower numbers, a trend that started well before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analysis by OregonLive revealed that Oregon high school students started avoiding college in 2017. These numbers became “supercharged” during the pandemic, posing a risk to the state’s educational equity and economy.

College-going rates dropped to just 56% for the class of 2021, representing an almost 10% drop in kids wanting to continue with their education. The “worrisome downturn” in enrollment started first with rural boys and young men, predominantly amongst boys of Latin American descent. In 2019, only 29% of this demographic went straight to college.

National Problem

College-going rates are dropping across the country, but these trends are particularly prevalent in Oregon. Though some colleges and universities within the state have managed to bump up their numbers since the end of the pandemic, the gap still remains. Part of this problem is the ” disastrous upheaval with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid this year has higher ed watchers worried about another college-going setback for the class of 2024,” OregonLive wrote in their analysis.

“The delay in aid packages almost certainly will depress college enrollments overall. How much? Nobody knows. This is unprecedented territory,” College Excellence Program at The Aspen Institute director Josh Wyner told the outlet.

Economic Worries

Experts told the outlet that the drop in college attendance is also a serious concern for the local economy. “This isn’t just a community college issue, it’s not even just a higher ed issue,” Oregon Student Success Center director Elizabeth Cox Brand noted. “This is a workforce issue. This is our tax base. We’ve got to be creating more individuals who are getting living wage jobs for their families so that we can continue to grow our economy.”

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