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Rural Oregon sending more high school grads to college, despite the rougher road

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March 29, 2011 09:24 pm

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Today, The Oregonian reported on college enrollment rates in rural parts of Oregon. Eighteen percent of Oregon’s rural adults have college degrees, compared with about 31 percent of urban adults, which mirrors national percentages. However, the story discuses a recent shift in college enrollment patterns:

In 2003, about 65 percent of the nation’s rural high school graduates attended college, compared with 75 percent of urban and suburban students, federal research shows. By 2008, an OUS report shows, Oregon had narrowed that gap, with 52 percent of rural students attending college, compared with 58 percent for urban. The Oregonian found an even smaller gap in 2009 graduates. The percents enrolling in college were 59 urban, 62 suburban, 58 small town and 60 rural. A larger share of small-town and rural students, however, chose the state’s 17 community colleges over its seven public universities. Data was not available for graduates attending out-of-state or private colleges.

According to the story, more rural students are choosing college because high schools are offering more guidance and rigorous classes to prepare students for college. Another reason is that jobs are scarce in economically distressed rural counties.

Check out this student interview with Felipe Pena, a senior at Stanfield High School. He says graduating from high school will be his “biggest accomplishment” yet and has a goal to finish with a 3.5 GPA. His parents are agricultural workers and his girlfriend and teachers are encouraging him to go to school after he graduates. He would like to attend Perry Technical Institute in Yakima, WA to train to be an electrician but has some fears about succeeding there.

Last year, the Alliance for Excellent Education released two resources on rural schools. The first is a policy brief on the current challenges and opportunities in preparing rural high school students for success in college and careers. The second is a brochure designed to give parents and community members some suggested ways to begin thinking about whether their local high school is adequately preparing all of its students for a successful future and what they can do to help turn that vision into reality.

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