CORVALLIS - A survey of Oregon high schools indicates more students will attend college in-state and many of those students are looking to two-year colleges, partly as a response to financial concerns.

The findings buck trends of recent years, which saw more students leave the state for college, said Jill Schuster, Oregon State University director of marketing.

The research, which was commissioned by OSU, is aimed at determining the attitudes of the state's high school students toward attending college, Schuster said. Competitive Insights of Portland carried out the study, which began in 1997.

"We started talking to sophomores before their decisions were formulated," Schuster said. Researchers surveyed Oregon high school sophomore classes from 1997 through 1999 as well as followed the high school class of 1999 from their sophomore through senior year. Students detailed individual attitudes toward higher education in general as well as in a number of specific areas, including choice of college majors and the importance of financial aid.

In 1997, about 70 percent of high school sophomores said they would attend college and about 30 percent said they probably would attend college. By the end of their senior year, nearly 90 percent of students say they will attend college.

Of those planning for college, 45 percent of sophomores surveyed in 1997 said they would stay in Oregon, but by 1999, 67 percent of seniors decided to stay in Oregon.

A number of factors influence student choice in higher education, Schuster said, but parents are making a comeback - ranking number two in influence, just behind financial concerns.

"Parents are back - they are getting involved in decision making, they are growing in influence," Schuster said. "It looks as if students are respecting their parent's opinions more than they have in the past."

It also appears that as more students elect to remain in-state, OSU is gaining in popularity, Schuster said. The percentage of high school seniors visiting OSU is greater than any other university in Oregon, with 48 percent of high school students visiting OSU and 41 percent visiting the University of Oregon. Portland State University had the third highest percentage of visitations at 20 percent.

The top choices in Oregon college preference for the seniors of 1999 who are planning to attend a four-year college are OSU and UO, with about 20 percent of students "most likely" attending OSU and 11 percent who say they are heading to Eugene.

While 1999 high school seniors ranked nearly 20 factors that are important in college image, students said one of the single most important attributes of a college is whether an institution offered the best deal for the money. Oregon community colleges ranked tops in offering the best deal for the money, followed by OSU in the number two spot.

Seniors also ranked as important: parent recommendations, best programs and whether an institution has students "most like themselves."

Health care appears to be the field of choice for most Oregon high school students surveyed in 1999, with 15 percent of sophomores planning to study medicine, 9 percent are looking at business, 8 percent are looking at education and engineering and 7 percent plan to study computer science. Among seniors, 14 percent are looking at medicine; 15 percent, business; 10 percent, education; 9 percent, engineering; 6 percent, computer science.

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Jill Schuster, 541-737-4668