- Background: Legislators, policy-makers, and leaders in higher education and
within communities, are increasingly turning to place-based scholarships, or “promise
programs”, to encourage college enrollment and address growing public concerns
regarding college affordability. One such program, the Oregon Promise, was
implemented across the state of Oregon in the fall of 2016.
Purpose: While a growing amount of research exists on promise programs, the
relationship between high school characteristics and community college enrollment
utilizing promise funding as a strategy to address college affordability and related access
has not been conducted. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to examine the
relationships between select high school characteristics (a) Oregon Promise high school
application rate, (b) high school socio-economic status, (c) high school racial
demographics, (d) high school gender demographics, (e) high school counselor-to-student
ratio, (f) high school size, and (g) high school participation in ASPIRE, FAFSA Plus, or
GEAR Up college support programs with community college enrollment using the
Oregon Promise in the first term.
Research Design: The sample in this study included all Oregon high schools in
2016 that were in the state report card and had at least a 20 senior graduating class. All
data were aggregate, secondary, and provided by state agencies at the institutional level.
The study employed multiple regression and examined the relationships between select
high school variables and community college enrollment utilizing the Oregon Promise in
fall of 2016. An F test was utilized to determine significance.
Findings: This study concluded that one variable – Oregon Promise application
rate – was statistically significant to community college enrollment. Two other variables
– percentage of high school economically disadvantaged students and number of
counselors per high school – had moderate relationships but were not statistically
Conclusion: While this early study found that Oregon Promise funding alone was
not enough to increase community college enrollment at low-income high schools,
program application rates were found statistically and positively predictive of community
college enrollment. These results invite further research and analysis from education
leaders and policy-makers on what encouraged higher Oregon Promise application rates
at high schools, in addition to how to incentivize this and other activities that encourage a
college-going culture. Future recommended research includes: this study with expanded
variables such as parent education and student first generation status, rigorous
longitudinal research and trend analysis on the presented descriptive data as related to
college-going culture, qualitative research exploring reasons students did or did not enroll
in the Oregon Promise, and further research on other state promise programs and the
impact on low-income high school enrollment.