On higher education, does Oregon expect too much?

Lauren Williams's picture
Friday, August 2, 2013

Have we set our sights too high for higher education in Oregon?

That's a question that arose in response to my recent column on the Legislature's three big ideas for higher education (July 9) and one that continues to stir doubts about the feasibility of achieving the state's goals for college completion. Suspicions persist that we may be setting up many young adults for failure by proclaiming high educational expectations that are more aspirational than practical.

I can't argue with the assertion that "college is not for everyone," even when that statement is delivered, a little too glibly and piously, by individuals who themselves have college degrees. But almost everyone who has kids or grandkids sees the potential of young learners and senses the harm that can be done by applying a "this-is-not-for-you" verdict prematurely or unfairly in their lives.

National polling tells us that 72 percent of Americans rate as very important the attainment of a certificate or degree beyond high school. Perhaps coincidentally, their views come close to aligning with Oregon's goal of having 40 percent of our adults with four-year college degrees and another 40 percent with two-year college degrees and certificates by 2025.

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