PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Nearly 40 percent of Oregon high school graduates do not attend college, a number that puts the state behind the national average and far behind the state's goal of getting 80 percent of its young people to earn a college credential.
A clearinghouse of national enrollment data found that among Oregon's high school class of 2011, just 61 percent enrolled in a college or community college anywhere in the country by fall 2012.
The national average is 68 percent.
Those numbers will confine a large share of Oregon's future workforce to low-wage jobs, The Oregonian reported.
Two years ago, Oregon adopted a formal goal of getting 40 percent of its young people to earn a four-year degree and 40 percent an associate's degree or industry certificate.
Generally, the number of students who go on to college from any given Oregon district closely tracks the number of graduates whose families aren't low-income.
The district serving the state's wealthiest neighborhood, the Riverdale School District, sent 86 percent of its 2011 graduates to college. No other district appeared close to meeting the 80 percent mark.
That is especially true of rural districts, which have some of the lowest college-going rates such as Eagle Point (43 percent), Lebanon (45 percent) and Scio (47 percent).
To combat the issue of students unprepared for college, some districts have or will eliminate low-level math and science courses to ensure the students get appropriately rigorous class loads.
Counselors say it isn't only academics where schools must take a strong hand with students. Expectations must be set, and the benefits of additional years of education must be made clear, and tangible steps must be established to show students a path to higher education.
"What is a transcript? What is the difference between a bachelor's degree and an associate's degree? How do I sign up for the SAT or the ACT? What is a FAFSA?" said Brooke Nova, college and career counselor at Hillsboro's Glencoe High, remembering some of the many questions she's been peppered with.
Her district has stepped up college-going help for low-income students whose parents didn't attend college in recognition it needed to do more to propel students into higher education.
In the class of 2011, only 60 percent of Hillsboro grads entered college, including just 38 percent of Latinos.
But bright spots, such as college partnerships, show promise.
Portland State University offers a rigorous class taken by about half of Jefferson High School seniors that requires them to spend navigate the PSU campus, do research at the PSU library and practice the rigorous thinking and writing required for a college class, said principal Margaret Calvert.
"It's important to make sure that our students understand how college works and have a tangible connection to college before they leave high school," Calvert said. "We want them to walk that path with an adult they trust, who knows the system. You can't underestimate how much support kids need to do that."
Information from: The Oregonian
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.