SALEM, Ore. — Minority groups still face barriers in paying for and completing degrees at Oregon’s public colleges and universities, amid overall mixed results for college students and graduating high school seniors, according to a new state report.
Despite a slowly rising completion rate for college students statewide, the report released Monday by the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission identified what it called significant gaps especially along lines of race and ethnicity. Some groups in the report were as much as 40 percent less likely to graduate, and others were more likely to report financial difficulties.
“We must do better as a state at eliminating disparities and improving affordability and success for all students,” said Ben Cannon, head of the commission, in a news release accompanying the report Monday.
The report, which examined college completion rates and affordability, as well as other data, found completion rates differing significantly between racial and ethnic groups, with 66 percent of Asian American college students and 51 percent of white students graduating within six years, but only 45 percent of black students and 37 percent of Native American students managing the same.
Native American students fared worst in graduation rates, and were 44 percent less likely than their Asian American peers to graduate on time, according to the report.
Statewide, affordability issues were more evenly spread, although still disparate, with Asian American and black students facing the largest gaps.
Black students were 10 percent more likely than white students to report financial hardship. Asian Americans were 20 percent more likely than white students to report financial hardship.
The report followed other findings of racial disparities. A 2017 annual progress report by the commission found that graduation rates have generally fallen among Native American and black students, and have held steady for Hispanic students after a small rise. White students were the only group that saw a steady increase.
The same 2017 report painted a mixed picture of state schools overall. Completion rates for students who start bachelor’s degrees have been slowly increasing statewide, up 3 percent from 2014. But the state remains below the national average for college attendance: fewer Oregon high school graduates entered college last year than at any point in the last five years, down nearly five percentage points from 2013. The report cited cost, travel time, and regional job markets as contributing factors.