Rural Students in Oregon Less Likely to Attend College, Re-Enroll for Second Year


Wednesday, May 27, 2015


REL Northwest has released a multiyear study of the college enrollment and persistence rates of rural and nonrural Oregon students who began grade 9 at a public school in Oregon between 2005 and 2007. The study found that rural students were less likely to enroll in postsecondary education and less likely to persist to the second year of college than their urban and suburban peers. This gap persisted for students no matter how high or low they scored on the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (OAKS) state assessments in math and reading.

“As Oregon works towards the goal of 80 percent of adults having a postsecondary degree by 2025, it is important to understand which groups of students are less likely to access postsecondary education and which groups are less likely to persist in college,” says Ashley Pierson, Education Northwest Senior Researcher and lead author of the study.

Nearly a third of Oregon public school students attend a rural school. For the graduating classes included in this study, the postsecondary enrollment rate among rural students was 55 percent compared to 63 percent among nonrural students. Among those who enrolled in college, the percentage of rural students who persisted to the second year was 78 percent compared to 83 percent for nonrural students. Rural students had lower rates of persistence at all types of two- and four-year institutions, in state and out of state.

“This first look at postsecondary enrollment of rural students in Oregon can provide important information for rural K–12 educators and state policymakers looking to improve college access and readiness efforts,” says Pierson. “For higher education leaders, they should dig further into their data to see if additional supports should be provided to rural students, as they often face different barriers to college success compared to nonrural students.”

The study is part of Education Northwest’s work with the Oregon College and Career Readiness Research Alliance, which draws together leaders and practitioners from both K–12 and higher education to improve alignment between the two systems. Members of the alliance include the Oregon Department of Education, Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, Oregon University System, and Oregon Education Investment Board as well as local education agency leaders.

Download the full report at the Institute of Education Sciences website.