An End to the Boom?
Byline: The Register-Guard
For 10 years, enrollment in Oregon's public universities has boomed in a way that hasn't been seen since the post-World War II generation entered college in the 1960s. This year, however, the Oregon University System reports that enrollment is nearly flat, and slow growth is projected for the next decade. The slowdown will relieve pressure on campuses that are at or near capacity, but the state's long-term interest depends on ensuring that more high-school graduates continue their educations.
The number of students attending the Oregon University System's seven schools climbed 30 percent between 1994 and 2004, with most of the growth coming in the last half of that decade. For 2005, however, preliminary figures show an enrollment increase of just 1 percent. The university system projects that enrollment will grow by only 14 percent by 2013. This year's enrollment is already short of those projections.
The growth has strained the capacity of Oregon campuses. The growth curve has been steepest at Portland State University, which had fewer than 16,000 students in 1994 and more than 24,000 today. Some PSU students attend classes in buildings long ago abandoned by the Portland School District.
At the University of Oregon, which has grown from just under 17,000 students in 1994 to more than 20,000 today, students are offered financial incentives to sign up for early morning or evening classes so that classrooms and lecture halls can be used more hours per day.
Among the many factors affecting enrollment, demographic factors are the most powerful. Higher-education enrollments in Oregon more than doubled during the 1960s, when the baby boom generation reached college age. The enrollment increase of the past decade is the echo of that boom, and it's about to pass. …