A record 23,761 students are enrolled at Oregon State University this fall – easily the institution’s largest class ever, university officials say. And while the university charted gains in every sub-group of students, it points to increases in the numbers of racial and ethnic minorities, international students, graduate degree seekers and domestic out-of-state students as major drivers of the growth.
OSU’s growth, in fact, helped drive an overall increase of 5.9 percent in the overall Oregon University System enrollment. Of the 5,380 additional students this year at the system’s seven institutions, 1,792 are at OSU, which saw growth of 8.2 percent. The university’s student “FTE” – measured by how many full-time students are represented in credit hours – grew by 1,634, the most of any campus in the system. No other university charted growth in excess of 1,000 FTE.
More Oregonians are now enrolled at OSU, the state’s land-grant university committed to serving Oregon students, than ever before — 17,178. That’s a 3 percent increase over 2009, representing an additional 508 students. Oregonians now make up more than 72 percent of the OSU student body, and its 3,853 new Oregonian undergraduates were the most enrolled this fall at any OUS campus.
And at OSU Cascades , the university’s branch campus in Bend, enrollment grew to 678 this fall, an increase of 11 percent. FTE growth at the campus was the strongest from a percentage standpoint in the OUS — 15.8 percent.
“More students than ever before are choosing Oregon State over the many other places where they might pursue their higher education career,” said OSU President Edward J. Ray . “We’re gratified by the faith they place in our university. And we’re particularly pleased with growth in a range of student groups that makes this university a richer community than ever before, with tremendous cultural, ethnic and racial diversity.”
OSU added 637 U.S. minority students, expanding that enrollment to an all-time high of 4,179. The 17.6 percent increase follows a jump of 16 percent last year. The majority of that growth came from Hispanic students, whose numbers jumped by 26 percent to 1,292. African American enrollment rose slightly to 325, while American Indian and Asian/Pacific Islander enrollments each experienced slight declines.
Graduate student numbers grew markedly, as well: Nearly 9 percent more are enrolled this year, with headcount at 3,618, 290 more than in 2009.
And though their overall numbers are smaller, international students grew by more than 38 percent this year to a total of 1,548, the highest ever for OSU and up markedly from the years following 9/11, when restrictive visa standards drove international enrollment down to roughly half this year’s total.
OSU’s “non-resident” population – students from the United States, though not from Oregon — rose sharply, too, with an additional 1,284 students pushing the overall total to 6,583 – a jump of nearly 28 percent.
Even with its robust growth, OSU planned carefully to ensure that all students had access to the full range of academic and living services they needed to succeed and thrive. Though OSU residence halls are full and classes are at capacity, few problems have been reported in accommodating this year’s largest-ever student body.
Meanwhile, the university is renovating 50 classrooms this school year to modernize and expand facilities and has invested more than $3.5 million in core course availability and academic advising. It has also expanded a summer program initially designed for student athletes to the general student population, assisting students in their transition to the university.
OSU is also continuing its “Bridge to Success Program” for the third-consecutive year, combining state, federal and private funds to allow some 3,000 Oregon residents to attend the university free of charge. Two new programs at the OSU Bookstore are targeting textbook affordability, increasing the standard student discount and providing vouchers to cut costs of required first-year course books. The measures will result in a $1 million savings for students this school year.
“We take seriously our obligation to provide an outstanding experience for each student, knowing that they come here not only for knowledge, but during a time when they’ll create relationships and encounter new opportunities that will be important to them for the rest of their lives,” said Kate Peterson, OSU assistant provost for enrollment management. “As we continue to enhance our campuses to accommodate more future students, those are the values we keep in mind.”
~ Todd Simmons