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Home arrow Opinion arrow Editorials arrow Campuses a bright spot in dark times

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Campuses a bright spot in dark times

It’s tough out there in these recessionary (or, allegedly, post-recessionary) days.

Tough to find a job.

Tough to keep the one you have, if you’re among the fortunate ranks of the employed.

And yet, in these trying times there is persuasive evidence that in one respect it’s getting easier, not more difficult, to, as the saying goes, get ahead.

Earning a degree from one of Oregon’s public universities, to be specific.

Almost 97,000 students enrolled in the state’s higher education system this fall, an increase of 5.9 percent from last year.

It’s also the third year in a row that enrollment has risen by at least 5 percent.

Which means that in the midst of the nation’s worst economic slump since the Great Depression, more people than ever have a chance to acquire a  diploma. And that fancily printed document, as voluminous research proves beyond any doubt, gives the recipient a decided advantage in trying to land gainful employment.

University officials list several reasons for the larger crowds on their campuses, including big tuition hikes in adjoining states, and fewer students dropping out.

And, curiously, the sluggish economy has helped too, as people who can’t find a job decide instead to bolster their academic credentials.

The situation in Oregon is not without flaws, certainly.

We send considerably less of our tax dollars to our public universities than our neighbors do — $3,849 per student in 2007-08 to the University of Oregon, Oregon State and Portland State, compared with $14,835 per student in California and $14,002 in Washington.’

That gap could bode ill for new graduates, since the perceived quality of a university, which is linked to tax support, affects the economic value of the diploma.

This connection is likely to be particularly evident in the hyper-competitive job market that’s apt to persist for several years.

Nonetheless, only the most determined pessimist can pretend that there isn’t a single exception to the continuing trend of economic bad news.

That exception is in class today at leaf-strewn campuses from La Grande to Ashland

When the economy rebounds and jobs are again abundant, more people will be qualified to do the work than were before the recession.

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