CORVALLIS, Ore. – In an annual address to the Faculty Senate at Oregon State University, OSU President Edward J. Ray reviewed what he called the “extraordinary” successes of the past 10 years, explored a range of financial and student issues, and cited major challenges and opportunities facing both OSU and the future of higher education.
While the United States was recovering from what’s been called the “Great Recession,” OSU boosted enrollment by 37 percent, raised nearly $1.1 billion in the most successful university fund raising campaign in state history, added and modernized an unprecedented number of campus structures and facilities, hit record levels of research funding and significantly expanded both the diversity and high-achieving status of its student body.
“The changes at Oregon State University affected over the last 10 years are nothing short of extraordinary,” Ray said in his address. “Our faculty, staff and students remain the lifeblood of this community, and without their talents and work, we simply would not have realized the positive change we see around us.”
Ray pointed to the expansion of Oregon State’s Ecampus distance education program, the creation of a Marine Studies Campus in Newport, and the planned growth of the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend as the primary future opportunities for student enrollment growth. He retained his commitment to a target of 28,000 students on the Corvallis campus and pledged steady additions of tenure-track faculty to boost both educational and research opportunities.
But he also warned that just celebrating the past will not address the challenges of the future.
“The natural inclination to stick with what has worked in the past, to not mess with success, is very powerful,” Ray said. “History is replete with examples of nations, governments, institutions and businesses that lost dominant positions because they failed to recognize the forces of change around them, that made business as usual a recipe for failure.”
To help deal with those changes, Ray noted that OSU will be managed by its own Board of Trustees for the first time in 80 years.
He suggested that over the next 10 years, OSU should launch its second comprehensive fundraising campaign, with goals of raising twice the total raised in this campaign and double the level of annual giving. And he said that possible slowdowns in federal research funding might be addressed with more funds from private industry partners, as may be possible through the university’s OSU Advantage program which targets university collaboration with industry..
Among other changes, accomplishments and challenges that Ray highlighted:
- High achieving students from Oregon with a grade point averages of 3.75 or higher this year will make up 44 percent of Oregon State’s entering freshman class. Meanwhile, U.S. minority students will make up 20.6 percent of OSU’s enrollment and international students, 13.1 percent.
- Key factors, made possible by faculty and staff collaboration, that allowed OSU’s stability and strategic focus during a time of national economic stress included elimination of 26 low-enrollment majors and consolidation of 62 colleges, schools, departments and programs into 42.
- The Campaign for OSU helped create an additional 77 endowed faculty positions, more than 600 new scholarships and fellowships, and facilitated 30 major construction projects valued at more than $727 million.
- OSU funding for research reached $285 million in fiscal year 2014, industry investments have grown by 50 percent over the past five years and licensing revenue from OSU inventions grew by 120 percent.
- With currently anticipated levels of state support, the university will provide 3 percent faculty merit raises and hire 30-40 new faculty members in each of the next several years.
- New initiatives have been implemented to improve first-year retention and six-year graduation rates for all students, such as a live-on campus policy, better academic advising, small-group peer mentoring, enhanced cultural centers and other activities.
OSU should both recognize its successes and acknowledge that the challenges of the near future will be different from those of the past decade, Ray said.
“Even as we celebrate the success of the Campaign for OSU, we should remember our role as stewards of this great university,” he said. “The extraordinary accomplishments we celebrate are the foundation for future greatness only if we sustain our momentum.”