Oregon Colleges and Universities

Most colleges and universities in Oregon are considered small to midsize, and only three are large research universities. Residents of Oregon can attend select colleges in 14 states through the Western Undergraduate Exchange, including in the neighboring states of Idaho, Washington, Nevada and California, and pay no more than 150 percent of the in-state tuition rate.

World University Ranking by Thomson Reuters

The Times Higher Education-Reuters World University Rankings powered by Thomson Reuters are the only global university performance tables to judge world class universities across all of their core missions — teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook. The top universities rankings employ 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide a comprehensive and balanced comparisons.

The University of Washington (UW) ranked 32nd in the 2015-2016 Times’ formula, which takes in 13 quality measurements. Bill Gates’ father is one of 10 university regents at “U-Dub”, one of the oldest West Coast universities, whose libraries have accumulated more than 7.3 million volumes in 150 years. This scholastic community — around 43,000 students, two-thirds of them undergraduates, working in 140 departments with about 5,800 faculty — is represented by a live mascot, Dubs the Alaskan Malamute. The University of Washington looks like the kind of operation that could drive a local economy.

Predictably, the rankings were also notable for our neighbors to the south. The California Institute of Technology was ranked number one, Berkeley (Cal) ranked 13th in the world and UCLA 16th, with three more UC campuses included in the top 50. Stanford University at number three was the only private school in California that ranked in the top five. Viewing the Northwest broadly, the University of British Columbia finished 32nd.

The Oregon Health Science University (OHSU) was in the 201-250 group, Oregon State University showed up in the 251-300 group and the University of Oregon in the 301-350 group.

The results of the twelfth (2015-2016) annual Times Higher Education World University Rankings  includes 800 universities – double the number of institutions that have been included in the rankings since 2011.

2016 US News & World Report’s Ranking of Oregon Colleges

The Oregon Institute of Technology tied for first place among Western public regional colleges in U.S. News & World Report‘s closely watched but controversial annual rankings published in September 2015. 

Oregon Tech moved up three notches to No. 5 among public and private Western regional colleges, which are liberal-arts schools that focus almost entirely on undergraduates, drawing many of their students from surrounding states. The University of Portland tied with California’s Chapman University to rank seventh among Western regional universities, schools that offer both undergraduate and master’s degrees and likewise attract many students from nearby.

“We added this ranking so that college officials could pick schools that the public should be watching because of the cutting-edge changes being made on their campuses,” a U.S. News statement said. Portland State innovations include a four-year degree guarantee, an Urban Honors College expansion and health and science programs in a new Collaborative Life Sciences Building in Portland’s South Waterfront district.

That’s the good news. When ranked nationally, Oregon schools continue to place as distant also-rans in a U.S. News pecking order that some college advisors dismiss as over-general or simplistic, but which commands the highest profile of such lists.

What’s striking about the overall national Best Colleges ranking is the disparity between richly endowed private universities — Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Columbia,  Stanford, ensconced at the top — and public schools whose funding declines have eroded their standing.

While Williams and Amherst colleges continued their flip-flop rivalry at the top of national liberal arts colleges, Washington’s Whitman College rated the highest of Northwest colleges, tied at No. 40 with two other schools. Willamette University, in Salem, came in 67th, tied with Wheaton College. Portland’s Lewis & Clark College ranked 72, tying with six schools including the University of Puget Sound.

Iconoclastic Reed College, the nationally recognized Portland liberal-arts college, refuses to fill out U.S. News forms to enter the rankings. But Reed was rated anyway, tying for 93 with five other schools including Vermont’s Bennington College. Linfield College, in McMinnville, tied with four other schools at No. 120.

  • Portland State University:  Portland State remained stuck somewhere in the second tier, below the 199 ranked universities. Top academic administrators from around the country chose the downtown Portland school as among the nation’s “most innovative” universities.
  • The University of Oregon:  UO remained in the triple digits in the overall national ranking. Oregon inched up from 106 to 103. 
  • Oregon State University:  Oregon State rose three points, from 138 to 135Oregon State ranked fifth among more than 100 universities rated nationally for on-line undergraduate degree programs.
  • Oregon Institute of Technology  OIT tied with 11 other schools including the University of Portland for 46th best undergraduate engineering school nationally. 

Source:  “Oregon schools pop up on U.S. News & World Report’s annual college rankings,” by Richard Reed, The Oregonian, September 10, 2015.   

Graduate Programs

U.S. News & World Report released its 2017 graduate school rankings in May 2016 and Oregon has just one program listed in the top ten overall in its discipline.

The news site lists the top graduate business, law, education, engineering, medicine and nursing programs, along with specialty rankings from departments within the programs each year. The rankings include masters and Ph.D.-level programs.

Oregon Health & Science University landed in a tie for sixth in the nation for primary-care medical programs. U.S. News grades medical schools overall on either research or primary care programs. OHSU’s physician assistant program tied for fifth in its field as well.

The University of Oregon’s education school earned the 12th spot out of its respective competitors.

Oregon University System

The Oregon State Board of Education works to ensure that every Oregon public school student has equal access to high quality educational services that promote lifelong learning and prepare students for their next steps following high school graduation including college, work, and citizenship.

The Oregon Legislature created the State Board of Education in 1951 to oversee the state’s schools. The board sets educational policies and standards for Oregon’s 197 public school districts, and 20 educational service districts. All of these agencies have separate governing bodies responsible for transacting business within their jurisdiction.

The Oregon State Board of Education is comprised of seven members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate. Five members represent Oregon’s five congressional districts, and two members represent the state at large. Members serve four-year terms and are limited to two consecutive terms. Board members elect their chair each year. The State Board meets at least six times per year and the public is welcome to attend State Board meetings. 

Smooth Transfer Between Oregon State Colleges

Oregon college students are able to transfer more smoothly among the state’s community colleges and universities as the result of common criteria for general education courses adopted by two state education boards in early 2010. The course guidelines define what students should learn in a given subject, such as writing, and what the course should include.

The Oregon Board of Education approved common course standards for an Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree that will allow students to move more freely among the state’s 17 community colleges and transfer smoothly into any of the seven public universities for their final two years of studies.  In addition, the joint boards approved policies that will allow high school students to get up to a year’s credit in the state’s seven public universities by earning an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma.

Oregon University System Guaranteed Admission Program

The Oregon University System now offers an Automatic Admissions option for in-state students, to recognize students who show strong preparation for college in certain assessments of the new Oregon High School Diploma. Most OUS campuses offer the option to be considered for Automatic Admission on their campus admissions application. The Portland State University website has a document entitled Senior Handbook that explains the criteria for Automatic Admission. 

Online Course Options

The Online Schools Web site has a directory of all college programs that students can take online apart from the more well known online schools.

College accreditation is a process by which schools are certified by an outside agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) or the Western Association of Schools & Colleges (WASC), to provide quality academic services and student support. Accredited schools can guarantee adequate library resources, qualified faculty, solid student achievement rates and financial aid access, as well as the ability to receive a license to work in fields that require licensure for practitioners.

Oregon College Savings Plan

The Oregon College Savings Plan, part of a network of similar investment options, allows parents to save for tuition tax free. Oregon residents also get to claim a state income tax deduction  up to $4,170 a year  for money they put into an account.

The Oregon College Savings Plan is administered by the State of Oregon, acting by and through the Oregon 529 College Savings Board, and distributed by OppenheimerFunds Distributor, Inc. OFI Private Investments Inc., a subsidiary of OppenheimerFunds, Inc., is the program manager of the Plan.

In 2008, investors in the most conservative portfolio were alarmed when their savings plummeted. An investigation by The Oregonian found that state officials didn’t closely monitor the fund or act fast enough to stop the losses until most of the damage was done. The state sued the plan manager at the time, OppenheimerFunds Inc. In late 2009, the state agreed to a settlement that reimburses about 56 percent of the $36 million lost from mismanagement of the accounts.

The Oregonian estimates that for every $1,000 invested in the Conservative or 1-3 Years to College Portfolio, investors might get $125 back. Both portfolios declined 24 percent in value in 2008, and one-third of each portfolio was invested in the Core Bond fund.

Oregon Private Colleges and Universities

Oregon Public Universities

Community Colleges

Other Schools