SALEM - The governor’s proposed 2013-15 budget includes the $16 million Oregon State University-Cascades Campus needs to become a four-year university.
Gov. John Kitzhaber won’t unveil the specifics of his budget until next week, but a member of his staff verified the dollar amount OSU-Cascades was asking for has been included.
“This is absolutely fantastic for us,” said Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend.
Although the governor has publicly supported the project from the beginning, locals said it was critical to the branch’s expansion to have the money earmarked early in the budget process.
“You never take anything for granted when it comes to budgets,” OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson said. “We know there is a limited amount of resources and a lot of good projects vying for the dollars. Even though the governor said he supported it, we weren’t taking it for granted.”
By 2015, OSU-Cascades hopes to be a four-year university, offering lower-division courses. It needs to buy more buildings to accommodate a student population increase of 1,000, for a total enrollment of 2,000. By 2025, the goal is to have close to 5,000 students.
In addition to the funds from the state, OSU-Cascades officials are trying to fundraise at least $4 million from the community. About $3.1 million has already been raised. The university is also kicking in $4 million.
The governor’s budget is a starting point. Lawmakers will likely negotiate throughout the upcoming legislative session before passing a final budget.
“I’m thrilled it’s going to be in his budget,” Johnson said. “I think OSU-Cascades and a university in Central Oregon are consistent with what the governor said are his priorities.”
Johnson pointed out that it will help the region’s economy and help the university system increase capacity.
Legislation passed in 2011, known as the 40-40-20 law, declares that by 2025, 40 percent of Oregon’s adults will have a bachelor’s degree or higher, 40 percent will have earned an associate degree or some kind of postsecondary certificate, and the remaining 20 percent will have earned their high school diploma or the equivalent. That means the state’s universities must ready themselves for a jump in enrollment.
Conger said he’s confident his fellow lawmakers will see this as a project that can be justified from a variety of angles. Its inclusion in the governor’s budget is a key first step and builds momentum.
It was the governor’s budget in the early part of the decade that included the necessary funding to create the branch.
“This is a real gift to us and takes us to the next step,” Conger said.
“It’s a really critical piece of the puzzle to getting us to that goal of a four-year university,” he said.