It was good news to hear badly needed bond money may well be coming the way of OSU-Cascades during the short legislative session that will begin Monday.
Both Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, and House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, say they believe the state likely will have the money to issue some $39 million in bonds for the school’s next new building. Those dollars would be combined with $10 million in private donations for a second classroom building, including space for classrooms, faculty offices and laboratories.
The picture was far less rosy during the 2017 legislative session. With lawmakers facing a shortfall and the state near its bonding capacity, some questioned the need for a four-year college in Central Oregon. Now, the state’s bonding capacity is up, and both Brown and Kotek say publicly they support spending on the school.
Meanwhile, for those who question the need for a four-year college in Central Oregon, consider the numbers. Enrollment is rising, as it has from the beginning. This November the school had 1,204 students attending classes; last year at the same time, it had 1,122.
The school is serving the population supporters thought it would: The average student at the school is 29 years old, while at Oregon State University in Corvallis, more than 69 percent of students are under the age of 25. Some 70 percent of students here are Central Oregonians, many of them the first in their families to attend college.
That’s critical in a region that once relied heavily on resource extraction — wood products — to supply family-wage jobs for many in the workforce. It’s been difficult to create equally well-paying jobs that do not require college education.
OSU-Cascades needs to add classrooms and other facilities if it is to continue to grow. Clearly the demand for more is there, and the governor and House speaker are poised to help fill that demand.