Gov. Kate Brown gave the OSU-Cascades campus badly needed support Dec. 8 when she included some $39 million for the school in the higher education financing package she’s seeking from the 2018 Legislature. With luck, lawmakers will be more receptive to the state’s newest university next year than they were in this one.
OSU-Cascades has been part of the Central Oregon education scene for more than 15 years, most of that time in partnership with Central Oregon Community College. Until its new campus opened in 2016, students took lower-division classes at COCC. Upper division and graduate work were offered by Oregon State University.
There’s clearly demand for the school, something lawmakers may not have recognized when they gave OSU-Cascades a paltry $9.5 million in bonding authority earlier this year. In its time in Bend the school has granted more than 3,000 bachelor’s and master’s degrees to men and women who might not have been able to continue their educations if they had had to leave the area to do so. That’s not about to change: Nearly a third of students new to the school this fall are the first members of their families to attend college.
The need for higher education in the most rapidly growing part of the state is critical, and unless OSU-Cascades is allowed to grow, it’s a need that will go largely unmet. Today the school has a dorm; Tykeson Hall, an academic and library building; and a third building that includes food service and academic space. To grow, it needs more.
Brown’s $39 million request, along with an additional $10 million in matching and gift funds, would allow the school to build a second academic building that would include laboratories, classrooms and faculty offices. Too, the cost would cover additional parking on the campus.
Oregon has one of the lowest rates in the country of students going to college directly from high school, at a bit over 45 percent, according to the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems. If that is to change, higher education has to be available in Central Oregon. Lawmakers, we hope, will recognize Brown’s financing request for what it is, a critical piece in the effort to improve that number.