BEND, Ore. – After only three months on the job, the leader of the Oregon State University-Cascades Campus is just getting to know her faculty and students. But Diana Sloane’s vision for the future of the state’s first branch campus already has begun to crystallize.
Her top priority is simple and straightforward.
“We need to begin building a better and longer pipeline of students coming into the OSU-Cascades Campus,” said Sloane, who is the campus executive officer for the institution. “Our enrollment this fall, or in any given year, is not as important to me as getting more students into the pipeline. If we do that, our enrollment will take care of itself.
“It is important not only for the continue growth of OSU-Cascades, but to motivate more Oregonians to attend college – for their benefit and for that of the state,” she added. “As educators, we have that responsibility.”
Projected fall term enrollment for the OSU-Cascades Campus is about 660 students – with an anticipated 500 enrolled in OSU-Cascades and an additional 160 taking courses through Central Oregon Community College. That is about the same total as last year, according to Jane Reynolds, director of enrollment services for OSU-Cascades.
Budget limitations have kept enrollment in check, officials say, but the 2007 Oregon Legislature provided a 23 percent increase to the Oregon University System – including money earmarked for regional campuses – and the Oregon State Board of Higher Education followed through with a budget boost for the OSU-Cascades Campus.
“It is gratifying that state leaders recognize the value that higher education brings to the state, although we still have a lot of ground to make up,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “But this is a tremendously important first step and we are grateful to Gov. (Ted) Kulongoski, the legislature and state board.”
OSU-Cascades will receive $8.9 million over the next two years, a 29.6 percent increase in funding over the last biennium. Sloane says the additional funds will be used to hire 2-4 new faculty members and expand academic offerings – though she hasn’t yet determined where that money will be spent.
“We’ll be looking at the programs we’re offering and perhaps fine-tuning them,” she said. “We also want to make sure we are doing all we can to boost enrollment.”
Sloane says she has four target areas for increasing the number of potential students in the OSU-Cascades Campus pipeline. Her immediate target is high school seniors in Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook counties who do not plan to continue their education past high school. More than 70 percent of the 12th-graders in the Bend-LaPine School District are college-bound, she added, but only 30 percent of those in Redmond and other towns in the three-county region have college aspirations.
“That’s a lot of young people not going to college,” Sloane said. “We need to get face time with every 12th-grader in the three counties and help them every step of the way. They need to realize they can be successful even if they are the first ones in their family to attend college and they need help in understanding the processes of how to apply for admission and financial aid.”
Sloane also would like to build the OSU-Cascades Campus into a destination for community college transfers throughout the state; attract more COCC students into the pipeline; and better serve the adult population of the region.
“There are a number of people living in Central Oregon who have part of their degree finished, but put their studies on hold to work, or get married or have a family,” Sloane said. “We need to attract those people. Likewise, there are a number of others who have an associate’s degree, or may be in nursing or other professions where they are being urged to pursue a bachelor’s degree.”
Sloane also is looking to increase private giving to the OSU-Cascades Campus. She has met with the OSU-Cascades Foundation Board and it will be adding new members to move the institution forward.
Priorities for fund-raising include student scholarships, endowed faculty positions and support for academic programs.
“We’ll also be spending time during the next year looking at our facilities,” Sloane said. “If we are successful in our recruiting efforts, eventually we’re going to need more room.”
Growth is on the horizon for the OSU-Cascades Campus, Sloane emphasized, and the additional investment from the legislature and state board – in combination with increased private fund-raising efforts – will help facilitate that growth.
“What many people forget is that despite budget constraints, the OSU-Cascades Campus has generated more than 1,000 graduates since it opened in 2001,” Sloane said. “I find that astonishing.”