Oregon is home to 93 post-secondary institutions, including colleges and universities, public and private, as well as vocational and career training schools. As of 2013, an estimated 381,000 undergraduate and graduate students attended these schools, enrolled in certificate and degree programs of every kind. These figures place Oregon 29th nationwide in total number of post-secondary institutions and 26th in the number of students. Oregon students can choose from a generous variety of two-year community colleges, four-year public colleges and universities, religiously affiliated institutes, and online schools.
Oregon's Biggest College Education Centers
Oregon colleges and universities can be found throughout the state with most, but not all, located in or near major and mid-sized metropolitan areas. The following lists provide a breakdown of the busiest education communities in the state:
Popular Oregon Cities for College Students (Total)
- Portland (110,100)
- Eugene (43,700)
- Salem (26,400)
- Corvallis (24,200)
- Gresham (16,400)
Most Colleges in Oregon by City (Total)
- Portland (33)
- Salem (7)
- Eugene (6)
- Bend (4)
- Klamath Falls (3)
City Spotlight: College in Portland, OR
Supported in large part by university research, Portland has been called “America’s Greenest City” for its commitment to sustainability and alternative energy. Not surprising, many higher education institutions in the state offer cutting-edge green building, sustainable energy and sustainable forestry degrees. In this educated metropolis, more than 43 percent of the city’s 609,456 residents over 25 have completed at least a bachelor’s degree. The city plays host to two public universities, 16 private colleges and specialty schools and one community college.
The University of Portland, a private Catholic institution founded in 1901, has been ranked eighth among Western Regional Universities by U.S. News and World Report for 2014. An independent liberal arts school, Reed College is renowned for its interdisciplinary and dual degree programs along with 26 department majors at the undergraduate level. Reed also offers a master’s degree in liberal studies.
When it comes to The Rose City’s sustainability sweet spot, Portland State University’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions leads the way. The Institute offers a graduate certificate in sustainability, undergraduate degrees in environmental studies and urban planning, and a master’s and doctoral degrees in environmental management. Portland State has a four-year degree completion guarantee in place, as well, meaning the university pays for all baccalaureate classes after the four-year deadline. For a two-year college experience, Portland Community College serves over 93,000 students a year at its three campuses in the city, making it the largest in the state. Students can complete associate degrees and certificates or enroll in an associate in arts or sciences Oregon Transfer Degree (AAOT) program in partnership with seven in-state four-year colleges and universities. The community college’s CLIMB Center for Advancement offers continuing education programs for healthcare professionals and small business owners.
Online Schools in Portland
Portland Community College is also a main provider of online education in the Rose City. It has eight associate degrees that can be completed entirely online, as well as four hybrid programs that combine online and traditional campus methodologies. In addition, community college students can earn an online associate degree in computer information systems, fire science, health informatics and business management.
Portland State University’s online programs include undergraduate and graduate degrees from the School of Business, a master’s of social work, and a master’s in global supply chain management. Concordia University, a private Christian liberal arts school, offers its Master of Education (M.Ed.) in a one-year online format. Students can choose among 19 different concentrations for their master’s concentration in education including the field of special education, curriculum, technical education and the Oregon Special Education Added Endorsement.
Online Colleges in Oregon
The distance learning industry has exploded over the past two decades, beginning with the establishment of a host of primarily online education providers. More recently, a number of traditional institutions in Oregon have aggressively entered the marketplace, creating courses and, in many cases, certificate and degree programs in fully online formats. In 2013, 16 four-year colleges and universities in Oregon offered some sort of online course or program to students. Portland State University, for example, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees through its PSU Online portal. Five schools offer various online degree programs: The Graduate School of Education, School of Social Work, College of Urban and Public Affairs, School of Business Administration, and Maseeh College of Engineering & Computer Science. Oregon State University (OSU) also offers dozens of online undergraduate and graduate degrees as well as more than 900 online and hybrid courses in more than 80 academic fields.
Paying for College in Oregon
Whether in Oregon or any other state, pursuing a college or university degree is an expensive proposition, which requires a great deal of forethought and planning. The first cost that any student must consider is tuition. Tuition can vary greatly from school to school, particularly when it comes to private colleges. In 2012, Oregon ranked 36th nationally in terms of average college tuition rates, with state residents paying $13,489 annually per student. However, tuition isn't the only cost that students may find at the college or university of their choice. Schools additionally charge an array of mandatory fees for items and services such as ID cards, student union membership, health care, parking and transportation.
The other major cost of attending college is broadly defined as "room and board." Living expenses in Oregon are relatively high in comparison to other states, at approximately 10 percent above the national average. The following chart provides a look at cost of living (COL) figures for specific Oregon urban areas in relation to the national average (100):
|Urban Area||Composite Index||Housing||Groceries||Utilities||Transportation||Health Care||Misc.|
Although tuition and fees are important, what comes after college could be the difference maker. For example, students who graduate from an affordable university might have a difficult time finding a solid career, and vice versa. Therefore, when vetting colleges, never forget to look at each institution’s return on investment (ROI). Various entities collect and analyze the average cost of attendance at a school and subtract it from the average lifetime salary of its graduates. This estimates the lifetime ROI of that school. In Oregon, the following colleges stood out in 2013:
- Oregon Institute of Technology
- Oregon State University
- University of Portland
- Willamette University
- University of Oregon
Student Financial Aid and Scholarships
For the vast majority of individuals, the cost of college would be prohibitive without funds secured from one or more sources of financial aid, including scholarships, loans and grants. Although private loans do exist, most student loans and grants are made available through the Federal Student Aid program. In 2012, Oregon ranked 20th nationally in regard to government financial aid, with about 69 percent of the state's undergraduates receiving some form of federal aid.
In addition to loans and grants, students can apply for any number of need-based and merit-based scholarships sponsored by private corporations and non-profit organizations, as well as through the charitable efforts of individual citizens. Scholarships are also offered by certain schools themselves. Below is a list of some of the associations and organizations that can provide scholarship opportunities to Oregon students:
- American Lung Association in Oregon
- Asian American Journalists Association - Portland Chapter
- Burlington Northern Santa Fe Foundation
- Burns Lions Club
- Data Processing Management Association - Portland Chapter
- Korean American Scholarship Foundation - Western Region
- Multnomah County Deputy Sheriffs' Association
- Northwest Osteopathic Medical Foundation
- Oregon Association of Broadcasters
- Oregon Association of Public Accountants
- Oregon Ford Scholars Program
- Oregon Parent Teachers Association
- Oregon Space Grant Consortium
- Project Management Institute (PMI) Portland Chapter
College Accreditation in Oregon
For students receiving financial aid, full institutional accreditation is critical. Proper accreditation of an individual school is a requirement for students at that school to receive federal loans or grants. In the United States, institutional accreditation is administered through U.S. Department of Education-recognized regional agencies. The primary regional accrediting agency for Oregon postsecondary institutions is the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Institutions in Oregon can also seek programmatic or specialized accreditation for specific programs, colleges, or departments, on top of regional accreditation. For example, all of PSU's individual schools and colleges have received programmatic accreditation from various agencies. Programs within PSU's College of the Arts has received accreditation from three different accrediting agencies, depending on the area of study: the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB), the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), and the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST).
We knew that Eastern Oregon University offered the state's most affordable online programs, but we wanted to know a little more about what makes EOU great. A representative from the school's online branch filled us in on the particulars of online education in Oregon. Read the interview below:
Eastern Oregon University
How would you describe your institution's approach to online learning?
Online learning at EOU is integrated across our larger academic enterprise. Instead of housing our at-a-distance programming in a separate department, each college and student services area takes an active role in providing high-quality, high-touch experiences for our students. Online is not just an additional modality for taking classes at EOU; our at-a-distance programming is a core aspect of who we are as a university.
What makes your online programs so valuable to students?
With ten degrees available entirely online, students enjoy the access and flexibility of taking classes that fit their academic goals, all while living in locations worldwide. At EOU, high-touch is not just a catch phrase – we mean it! Our online programs are founded on the same highest common denominators that all of our academic programs are built upon. Each student has an academic advisor helping them develop a degree completion plan based on their academic and career goals, and providing consistent guidance through their educational journey. Students also connect directly with our professors instead of teaching assistants.
Where do you see your online programs in the next five years? Beyond?
We foresee continued growth in the number of degree programs, associated minors and courses we offer for effective education at a distance. Our talented faculty and student services professionals will continue working to develop approaches and methods that further leverage technology for successful learning. We will continue providing enhanced blended experiences for students, connecting real-time instruction in the classroom with online options in a range of hybrid formats.
Ranking: Most Affordable Online Colleges in Oregon
Oregon brings the Pacific Northwest to the rest of the country through its expansive online distance learning programs. Numerous four-year colleges in Oregon offer fully online degree programs to their students. With full accreditation and many degrees equivalent to those granted on-campus, online schools in Oregon are the best option for many students. Often online degree programs in Oregon also offer tuition assistance and flexible scheduling, which makes online learning a convenient method of education. To see all the wonderful opportunities Oregon offers its distance learners, check out the research we’ve done for you. For your convenience, we’ve indexed all of the premier Oregon online colleges from lowest tuition to highest.Click here to see our methodology.