Addressing the degree divide for low-income rural students in Oregon

Nearly one-third of Oregon public school students attend a rural school. These students in Oregon are 10% less likely to enroll in college compared to their urban peers, and low-income students are even less likely to attend college. College persistence rates for rural students are also over 5% lower than their non-rural peers. College campuses should reflect the diverse experiences of all Oregonians, regardless of where they live and what their parents earn.

We are proud to announce College Possible Portland’s Statewide Initiative. In this pilot program, we will begin to serve low-income rural students across Oregon through a combination of in-person and tech-connected intensive coaching. This program will help more students outside of Portland achieve their goal of attending and graduating from college by delivering proven College Possible programming across the state.

“Rural students have all the potential and none of the access. Programs like College Possible are crucial to ensuring students across Oregon have equitable access to successful futures,” says Heidi Sipe, Superintendent of Umatilla School District and 2016 Oregon Superintendent of the Year.

Two AmeriCorps coaches will each work with a caseload of approximately 40 students. They will cultivate the same near-peer mentor relationship with students as our traditional model, and will do this through a combination of in-person teaching and tech-connected conversations. Once a month, coaches will visit partner high schools to lead a two hour afterschool session with all College Possible students at that school. We asked partner high schools to commit to recruiting at least five students so youth had the experience of being in a cohort of their peers, and these sessions will run similarly to those in our traditional program. In between monthly sessions, coaches will have weekly contact with students using a variety of technology including email, text and social media. At least one of those conversations will be a voice-to-voice “campaign coaching” session where coaches will have a scheduled time to give personalized guidance based on the curriculum that was delivered during the group session. Coaches will also work with contacts at their assigned high schools to be part of the college and career team and provide increased capacity and support for teachers, administrators and staff to create a college-going culture in schools across the state.

We recognize that students outside of the Portland-metro area and especially in rural Oregon face unique and sometimes additional challenges when it comes to college opportunities, the support available to them and additional barriers to success. As part of our pilot program we will continue to evaluate our curriculum to ensure we are meeting the unique needs and challenges faced by our rural students to ensure they are successful not only in getting into college but continuing through degree completion.

We are currently recruiting students at our seven partner schools: Clatskanie Middle/High School, Gaston Junior/Senior High School, Irrigon Junior/Senior High School, Rainier Junior/Senior High School, Riverside Junior/Senior High School, St. Helen’s High School and Umatilla High School.

For more information, please visit our Statewide Initiative website:

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    “Making it through college, a step that people think is impossible for students with backgrounds like mine, is the most amazing thing.”

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    “If I could describe my experience as a college student in one word—it would be ‘amazing!'”

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