OSU president tells Bend crowd his school needs more money

University will still seek $69M despite governor’s tight budget

By Kailey Fisicaro, The Bulletin, @kaileyfisicaro

Even as he praised his university and the new branch campus it opened in Bend in fall 2016, Oregon State University President Ed Ray made pleas Wednesday evening for more money from the state Legislature — in part to expand OSU-Cascades.

Ray’s cry for more funds comes after Gov. Kate Brown’s proposed budget allotted only a fraction of what the university asked for to expand its OSU-Cascades campus.

Ray said the university remains “undaunted” in asking for $69.5 million from the state to expand the Bend campus. Brown’s proposed budget includes only $20 million for OSU-Cascades.

The state of the university address, made at the Riverhouse on the Deschutes in Bend, followed an afternoon event at OSU-Cascades’ southwest Bend campus during which the university formally rolled out its new branding campaign and its new shield-shaped university seal.

Ray spoke to about 300 people at his address — about 60 percent of whom were community members.

If the Legislature does not allot the university the full $69.5 million, students will be prohibited from attending the Bend campus, Ray said. The university projects it will grow out of its current space within three years.

In his address, Ray asked the governor and the Legislature to prioritize higher-education funding. The state’s seven public university presidents are seeking a $100 million increase in state operating funds for the 2017-19 biennium, but the governor’s proposed budget essentially provides flat funding.

While the OSU Board of Trustees recently voted to raise tuition by 4 percent in resident undergraduate tuition, the university cannot meet its goal “on the backs of our students and their families,” Ray said.

The university plans to cut $20 million in costs next school year.

But while a good portion of Ray’s speech hammered at the need for more state money, the rest was spent lauding the university’s successes — in part to prove the college is worth the investment from the state.

Beyond opening its new campus in southwest Bend, the university reached a few other milestones, Ray said: OSU was the state’s largest university for the third year in a row, enrolling more than 30,000 students; the university’s grant-funded research totaled a record $336 million, a 9 percent increase from 2015, which was also a record year; and the university received a variety of acknowledgments — for example, Student Housing Magazine honored Bend’s new residence hall as the nation’s “most innovative new student housing,” Ray said.

Before Ray, OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson also had a turn to speak. The region has been working for more than 30 years to get a four-year university campus here, Johnson said.

“Well, Central Oregon, we did it,” she said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0325, kfisicaro@bendbulletin.com

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