OUS campuses visit Oregon high schools

Correction: In the article titled “OUS campuses visit Oregon high schools,” it should have been reported that Oregon University System representatives visited Jesuit High School in Portland.  


Correction: In the article titled “OUS campuses visit Oregon high schools,” it should have been reported that Oregon University System representatives visited Jesuit High School in Portland.  


Last Monday, the Oregon University System kicked off its annual high school visitation tour with a stop at Lakeview Senior High School. Representatives from seven OUS campuses set up booths in the cafeteria, and after the audience of juniors and seniors watched the presentation, they were free to speak with admissions counselors.

The mission of the tour is to put the calling card of all of the Oregon universities into the hands of Oregon students. No other state in the nation offers a university visitation system that hits almost every high school in the state, said Kelly Talbert, senior assistant director of admissions and recruitement at the University of Oregon. The five-week tour devotes a week to each region it visits, from Central Oregon to the Oregon Coast.

Formerly, the program was paid for by the OUS Chancellor’s Office, but in 2004, major cuts in state funding eliminated its Academic Affairs division. As a result, the universities stepped up, and each campus shoulders an equal portion of the program’s $7,500 cost.

Before attending the event, Senior Katie Stosoeth already knew she wanted to attend

Oregon State and then enroll in a program at Oregon Health and Science University, but she came away from the two-hour event with fresh information.

“It was nice to have the costs and everything laid out in front of you,” she said. She also met with an OSU admissions counselor. “I got her business card, so now I have her email [address].”

Some students were unimpressed by Monday’s kickoff presentation, mandatory for upper-classmen at Lakeview. Senior Mark Smith, who is interested in firefighting, said the event “wasn’t boring, just not exciting.”

“I hear there’s a good program at Eastern Oregon,” he said. However, when he passed EOU’s booth, he didn’t get much time to speak to its representatives.

On the other hand, for Lakeview counselor Lonnie Chavez, the presentation was valuable. “It gave me that face-to-face contact,” she said, explaining that she can put students in touch with the admissions counselors she meets at the event.  She also appreciates the service that the OUS tour provides to rural areas.

The tour makes a point to include a diverse range of private and public schools in its itinerary. Grants Pass High School in Central

Oregon graduated only 60 percent of its senior class last year, the lowest rate of the schools on the tour. Holly Hayes, a counselor at Grants Pass, said that the night presentation geared towards parents is a useful reality check.

“It helps to have somebody else [stating the facts]. Some of the parents think, ‘My kid is going to a four-year college,’ [and] we keep telling them, ‘Her GPA isn’t high enough.’ Well, here it is in print.” she said.

For students with low GPAs, Grants Pass brings in local community colleges to host a presentation at the same time as the OUS event.  The OUS presentation used to be open to only those students at Grants Pass who qualified to attend a four-year university, but now all students can attend both events.

“A student who maybe doesn’t have Algebra II can still go [to the OUS presentation], get the info—now they have an avenue for transferability,” Hayes said.

In contrast with Grants Pass, Jesuit High School in Portland boasts a 98 percent graduation rate, and most of its seniors go to four-year-institutions. However, the OUS visitation program did not visit the high school, even though a percentage of its graduating students went to in-state public schools last year.

“Many of our students start off their college search with grand ideas of going east, but by the time spring rolls around, Oregon schools look more feasible,” said Peter Johnson, Jesuit High’s director of college advising.

Though each campus brings its own materials and recruiting efforts to the OUS tour, the common goal is to keep students in Oregon universities.

Bill Ryder, the assistant director for New Student Programs at Portland State, said, “We’re not necessarily trying to recruit [students] to PSU…what matters is that students find the best fit.” Ryder has been a frequent participant in the high school visititation tour since 1999.

Every two years, the coordinating responsibilities are handed off to a different campus; this year, the Admissions Office at the University of Oregon is planning the tour. The presentations at the various high schools don’t promote any school in particular.

Talbert, emphasizes the camaraderie of the seven representatives who travel together in a van to the various presentation sites.

“It’s great to be able to…have that shared experience and share ideas as professionals,” Talbert said.

Though the focus of the program is the OUS, individual campuses benefit from the exposure that the tour provides them.  Regional campuses, such as Western Oregon University and Eastern Oregon University, aren’t always familiar to students. 

David Compton, WOU’s Assistant Director of Admissions, recognizes the value of reaching out to high schools. “The more contact you can have with students, the more applicants you get,” he said.

The tour will conclude at the end of October, after stopping at almost 70 different high schools across Oregon.

“It’s a lot of work,” says Diane Saunders, Director of Communications at the OUS.  “It’s worth it, though; the best way to connect with students is to go to them, not have them come to you.”