OSU-Cascades Secures $1.5M+ for Proposed Expansion

OSU-Cascades' purchase of this building in Bend will help the institution continue its progress toward becoming a comprehensive university. (photo by Steve Gardner)

More than 50 donors have put Oregon State University-Cascades $1.575 million closer to becoming a comprehensive, four-year branch campus of OSU with its own physical campus. The outpouring of community support came in less than two months.

Noting that a combination of state funds, loans and private support will be required for the campus expansion, OSU-Cascades launched the first phase of the “Ascending New Heights” fundraising initiative in May, with an initial goal of 40 gifts of $25,000 to demonstrate local support for a four-year campus. As of June 30, 54 individuals and businesses have made gift commitments of at least $25,000 each to the proposed facility project.

“The Central Oregon community has stepped up to invest in a vision they’ve held for nearly three decades.  The overwhelmingly positive response conveys to our state legislators that OSU-Cascades can help transform the future of Central Oregon,” said OSU-Cascades vice president Becky Johnson. She and her partner, Lori Elkins, were the first donors to the initiative with their own personal commitment of $25,000.

Since its launch in 2001 OSU-Cascades has provided upper-division and graduate coursework for students pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees, with Central Oregon Community College providing lower division coursework. Most classes are held in leased space at COCC; last year an $800,000 gift commitment from Bend resident Allan Bruckner made it possible for OSU-Cascades to purchase its first building, which houses administrative staff and graduate teaching and counseling programs.

About 750 junior, senior and graduate students enrolled at OSU-Cascades in fall 2011, plus 170 freshmen and sophomores at COCC, but enrollment is projected to reach 3,000 to 5,000 students by 2025.

Leaders say developing OSU-Cascades into a four-year branch campus is essential to meet the state educational achievement goal that says by the year 2025, 40 percent of Oregonians will have a bachelor’s degree, 40 percent will have an associate’s degree or post-secondary credential and 20 percent will have a high school degree.

“Our partners at Central Oregon Community College agree that both our schools will have to grow in order to join other state institutions in fulfilling the 40-40-20 goals. Now is the perfect time to transition off of the COCC campus, freeing up space for COCC and establishing a four-year campus for OSU-Cascades,” Johnson said.

OSU-Cascades’ growth is expected to enhance the region’s economic development and resiliency by providing the area with an educated work force and by partnering with local businesses. Central Oregon is the state’s only major population area without a four-year university.

“My company hires scientists, mostly from outside the area; I’d like to see that change,” said Rod Ray, president and CEO of Bend Research; it was among the first businesses to make a gift to the “Ascending New Heights” initiative.

“Campus growth is going to bring much-needed revenue to Central Oregon. So for industry, supporting OSU-Cascades’ momentum is simply good business,” Ray continued. “I think legislators will also have to agree that this is an excellent investment for our state.”

More than $700,000 of the funds raised to date for the “Ascending New Heights” initiative are from the business community, including a commitment of $250,000 from Mt. Bachelor, Inc.

“We still have a ways to go,” said Johnson, noting that the total philanthropic goal for the proposed facility project is likely to be in the $4 million-range. “We’re eager to add to what we’ve already raised and bring as many donors onboard as we can in advance of the upcoming State Board of Higher Education meeting. Together, we’re sending a powerful message.”

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