Expanding Oregon State University-Cascades Campus into a four-year university will result in the greatest economic and cultural boost Bend and Central Oregon have seen in more than 40 years I have lived here. Gov. John Kitzhaber clearly recognizes this potential impact, as do our local elected officials. Their support of the campus’s $16 million capital request now facing the state Legislature has been consistent and strong. But the future of OSU-Cascades is not only in their hands. It’s also in ours.
To create a strong four-year branch campus of Oregon State University, we must share in the state’s pending investment and together raise at least $4 million to match the capital request. I believe we need to exceed that $4 million goal and raise $5 million to $6 million.
By doing so, we’ll reduce the amount the new campus will have to borrow, freeing up needed resources for investment in academic programs and students.
To see examples of how a new university can impact a community, we can look to our bordering states. Two decades after they were founded in 1990, the University of Washington’s branch campuses in Bothell and Tacoma had enrollments of about 2,500 and 3,300 students, and reported an impact of $103 million and $124 million respectively on their surrounding communities. To our south, the University of California system’s new Merced campus has 6,000 students and 300 professors and instructors. After a dozen years, it reports a local impact of more than $650 million to the San Joaquin Valley.
Already, generous philanthropic investments from community members have contributed over $3 million. These generous donors recognize what studies by New York’s Rockefeller Institute have proven — higher-education institutions drive long-term economic development and community revitalization. They help employers prosper and grow by offering worker training, management counseling and help for startups. They also create an educated population, which is essential in today’s economy and which is lagging badly in Bend.
It is clear that through investing in our own branch campus, we will greatly enhance the future of Central Oregon’s economy. In a recent column in The Bulletin, economists from ECONorthwest noted several areas where Bend’s economy is not keeping pace with other cities in Oregon. Foremost is the fact that the average income in Bend is only 71 percent of the national average. We need more high-income employment. One of the strongest assets of an institute of higher education is that they have stable, long-term, highly paid employees. A four-year university would give our economy a boost and a stabilizer, needs very evident these past few years. A four-year university will have an economic impact in excess of $10 million annually.
OSU-Cascades anticipates its inaugural freshman class in fall 2015. Undergraduate degrees in computer science, accounting and hospitality management, and graduate degrees are already in the works. In the next two years, new degree and graduate programs will be designed. The university must also plan and hire faculty for freshman and sophomore curricula, and secure and develop about 90,000 square feet of space — classrooms, labs, common areas and offices — necessary for the 2,000 students anticipated in just six years.
We, the community, must continue to contribute our part and demonstrate to the state and OSU our ongoing support and belief in OSU-Cascades. I’d like to call on others like me, who have enjoyed success these past decades in Bend and Central Oregon, to acknowledge this and give back to our community with gifts to OSU-Cascades. And I call on those whose present endeavors will be greatly benefited by a sound and growing local economy to do likewise. This can be the greatest positive impact for Bend since the lumber mills came 100 years ago. To give, please visit www.OSU cascades.edu/make-a-gift, or give me a call. Absolutely nothing is more important to assuring us the future we want than establishing a four year university here, now!