Monday, May 6, 2019

Enrollment at Oregon’s Public Universities

Enrollment in higher education is largely counter-cyclical. Enrollment tends to soar during periods of recession and drop during expansions. Nationally, and here in Oregon, we are in the midst of a historically long economic expansion with many economists agreeing we are at or near “full employment.” Based on where we are in the business cycle we would expect to see enrollment down as employment opportunities abound and unemployment is very low. That has not been the case. Collective enrollment across Oregon’s public university system has been largely flat since 2011. However, this doesn’t mean that the public university system is entirely kicking the counter-cyclical label.

Enrollment across Oregon’s eight public universities grew rapidly as we entered the last recession in 2008. The increase in enrollment corresponded with a spike in unemployed Oregonians. It is common for people who lose a job to go back to school during these tough economic times in order to receive education and training for a new career. The number of unemployed Oregonians peaked in 2009 and has been declining rapidly since. In fact, there are significantly fewer unemployed Oregonians today than at the peak of the last expansion in 2006 and 2007. Although the employment outcomes for Oregonians are nearly as good as ever, enrollment in Oregon’s public universities remains near peak levels.
To learn more about the relationship between university enrollment and unemployment, read the article written by Regional Economist Damon Runberg

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