Like many Oregon families with a high school senior in the house, we are currently working with our daughter, a senior at Oregon City High School, to help her make the decision about where to attend college. Like many families, we have always stressed the importance maintaining good grades, and encouraged extracurricular activities and volunteerism. Our daughter is currently maintaining a 3.7 GPA, has earned 35 college transfer credits while in high school, and has recorded a plethora of extracurricular and volunteer activities to date. Her attendance record is stellar. When it came time to apply for colleges, and of course financial aid, we felt confident that she would receive attractive financial aid awards from at least the Oregon schools to which she applied.

Being a University of Oregon graduate myself, I was pleased when she applied there. She also applied at Oregon State University, Montana State University, and 3 private, very expensive, and very selective schools in the mid-west. After jumping through all the FAFSA, College Board Profile, and the individual schools applications for financial aid, we were very disappointed in the award letters from the Oregon Schools. She did receive a small Dean's Scholarship from Oregon, and a 'Diversity and Achievement' award from OSU. Aside from that, both schools awards were made of largely of loans, and expected family contributions. We are probably a very typical, middle-class family, and like most similar families, we have not always had the extra resources to set aside as much as we might have liked for our daughter's education.

While none of the schools offered a 'full ride', we found the comparative awards to be quite interesting. When we look at our actual out-of-pocket expenses, even though we are Oregon residents, the two Oregon schools are the least attractive. We can, and probably will be sending our daughter off to Wisconsin in the fall to a highly regarded, small liberal arts university, where the cost of attending is just shy of $40,000. The school has been ranked very highly in all the 'Best Colleges' surveys, and is very selective in their admissions policy. There will not be an ounce of snobbery in our decision, should she choose to go there, and we have never felt that an education from an elite private school was necessarily any better than that from one of our own state schools. The University of Montana, even with having to pay out-of state tuition, has offered a package that would cost our family $3-4,000 less than either Oregon School.

If we want the best and the brightest of our young minds to remain in Oregon, we can no longer afford to dismiss the decline of our higher education system. We would have preferred to keep our daughter closer to home. Unfortunately that may not be possible. There is something unquestionably askew, when an excellent student from an Oregon high school is forced to pursue their continued education elsewhere.

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