SALEM, Oregon — Oregon State University-Cascades has the authority to expand into a four-year school, but it still needs the money.
Becky Johnson, vice president of the Bend-based campus, urged members of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Capital Construction to approve the $16 million that's needed to become a four-year institution. She said a four-year university would have a "transformative effect" on Central Oregon.
"And we hope we can count on your support," she added.
So far, it seems she has it. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, who co-chairs the committee, called the expansion a "wise investment," The Bulletin newspaper reported (http://is.gd/UzSar0).
"When I was in Bend this spring, I was impressed by the strong community support for the project," Kotek said in a statement after Friday's meeting.
The State Board of Higher Education last year approved a plan allowing the campus to expand into a four-year school, fulfilling a goal the region has chased for at least a quarter-century.
The branch campus of Oregon State University opened in 2001 with a "two-plus-two" model in which students take freshman and sophomore classes at Central Oregon Community College and upper-division courses at OSU-Cascades, earning a bachelor's degree. The model makes it difficult to attract the out-of-state and international students who pay the much higher tuition rates needed to subsidize those who pay in-state rates.
The school will remain a branch of OSU rather than become a regional university such as Eastern Oregon, Western Oregon and Southern Oregon.
Johnson told lawmakers the region has one of the fastest-growing K-12 populations in the state, outpacing even the Portland metro area. When surveyed, 60 percent of those students want to attend a four-year university upon graduation, she said.
Central Oregon, therefore, is exporting its students and future workforce.
The capital construction committee typically approves its budget toward the end of the legislative session. Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, said it appears OSU-Cascades will receive the money, but he remains cautious.
"I hope politics don't get in the way," he said. "But in this building, until you have the check signed — it's not a done deal."
Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com