College Students Rebuild Oregon's Economy One Mentee at a Time

posted Jul 2, 2012, 10:51 AM by McKenzie Miller   [ updated Aug 1, 2012, 4:36 PM ]
Oregon ranks 49th out of 50 states for college-going rates of high school graduates (National Center for Higher Education Management). Of those that pursue higher education, just over half complete. Each year, 40% of Oregon’s college students leave before earning a degree. The cost to Oregon is $35 million in lost income and taxes.

The impact of this hits hard, as we know a vibrant economy is dependent on a strong, educated workforce. To secure Oregon’s future, Oregon Campus Compact (ORCC) is committed to supporting college success. Those least likely to attend and complete college are first generation, low-income, and underrepresented students. To navigate the challenges they face, ORCC provides resources to campuses to increase degree attainment.

Through the ORCC AmeriCorps Retention Project, Retention Project members are awarded to campuses to develop mentoring programs for at-risk students. College student mentors serve as role models for middle and high school students as well as college student mentees by providing guidance and an example of academic success.

Academia has embraced mentoring as an effective way to support degree attainment based on current research. Studies show that mentoring creates reciprocal benefits for the mentor and mentee, increasing retention rates and likelihood of graduation of everyone in the mentoring relationship (Campus Compact).


From 2011-2012, ORCC placed ten Retention Project members on ten college campuses across Oregon. Now completing their term of service, campuses are saying goodbye and reflecting on what’s been accomplished.

The ORCC Retention Project Team 2011-2012

Through mentor programs that create access to college, high school students previously identified as at-risk of dropping out have found a reason to graduate and are thinking about their future. A high school staff member working with the Retention Project has seen significant changes amongst students.

“Mentees are enjoying their time with their mentors as well as learning from the [college] activities provided. They express much enthusiasm about the college mentors, and constantly ask counselors when they can come visit [the college].”


For campuses supporting at-risk college students, the results have been astounding, “As a non-traditional, first-generation minority student, wife and mother of two, I still remember the struggles I endured just to make it through my first term, let alone my first year of college. I was lucky to have wonderful mentors who taught me to not only excel academically, but also be a well-rounded and genuinely happy person.”

Through the Retention Project’s mentor program, this student became a leader, community-builder, and mentor to other students. She goes on to say, “I have been accepted into Portland State University’s Graduate School of Education to earn a master of science in Leadership for Sustainability Education. My goals include helping to create and maintain curriculum and programs that support multicultural perspectives and cultural diversity for all students while continuing to be a mentor.”


The Retention Project has had this effect on campuses throughout Oregon. Preliminary numbers show this year’s members:
  • Recruited, trained, and supported over 300 mentors.
  • Coordinated mentors to serve over 1,900 mentees.
  • Supported upwards of 22,500 hours of mentoring.
  • Organized special events where volunteers served over 9,800 hours.
Today, only 36% of Oregon adults have an associate degree or higher (Complete College). By 2020, it’s projected that 67% of jobs will require a career certificate or college degree. In order to keep our state’s economy robust, we must educate and train Oregon’s workforce. With campuses across the state working to increase access and success, ORCC is proud to be a part of the effort driving Oregon’s economy forward. As the Retention Project continues, we look forward to evaluating data that will illustrate the program’s impact on college completion in Oregon.

Congratulations to the 2011-2012 ORCC Retention Project Members!
Chemeketa Community College, Rachel Hirsch
Concordia University, Amy Dickerson
George Fox University, Violet Read
Lewis & Clark College, Gabe Montes de Oca
Linfield College, Hilda Escalera
Oregon State University, Sarah McConnel
Portland State University, Rita Stacy
Southern Oregon University, Lacey Hunter
Warner Pacific College, Jael Chambers
Western Oregon University, William Saguil

The ORCC Retention Project is a partnership between Washington Campus Compact and ORCC. To learn more about Oregon’s AmeriCorps Retention Project and how your campus can host a member contact VISTA and Retention Project Coordinator Signe Bishop at signe@oregoncampuscompact.org.