By Abby Spegman

The Bulletin

A state commission on higher education has OK’d requests for $69.5 million to pay for the next wave of construction at OSU-Cascades.

The Higher Education Coordinating Commission, which reviews capital funding requests from the state’s public universities, unanimously approved its 2017-19 budget plan at a meeting last week. It included major increases in funding for public universities and community colleges and a prioritized list of construction projects on campuses across the state.

The plan will now go to the governor’s office for consideration.

The Cascades campus had asked for $10 million for a student success center and $39 million for a second academic building that would include classrooms, lab space and offices. Another $490,000 would go to renovate the Graduate & Research Center on SW Columbia Street in Bend.

Officials have said the initial 10-acre campus at SW Century Drive and Chandler Avenue, set to open next month, will be at capacity for classroom and office space by 2019.

The campus’ highest-priority request is $20 million for restoration of the 46-acre former pumice mine next to the 10 acres the university purchased in January. That work could start in 2018 and would include partial fill and compaction, according to budget documents, and installing roads, building pads, utilities and other infrastructure.

“It is good news from our end. We’re very appreciative that the (higher education commission) is taking Central Oregon into consideration and our ability to serve more students,” said Kelly Sparks, associate vice president at Oregon State University-Cascades.

Construction on the student success center, which would be located on the 10-acre campus, is slated to start in 2019; construction on the second academic building, which would be at the mine site, is slated to start in 2020.

The campus would contribute $15 million toward the construction, including $10 million in gifts it is working to raise now.

Beyond Bend, the higher education commission’s budget plan includes increases in funding for public universities, community colleges and grants to help students pay for college. That’s in line with goals from the commission’s strategic plan — such as making college more affordable — and direction on funding from lawmakers, according to Bob Brew, the commission’s deputy executive director.

“For the most part, the big ticket items were either to meet the strategic plan goals or meet legislative requests,” Brew said. “It’s up to the governor whether she wants to put them in her budget, and if the Legislature wants (to fund them).”

— Reporter: 541-617-7837,