BEND, Ore. -

If there's adequate community support, OSU-Cascades could expand to a four-year university in Bend within three years and grow to 3,000 to 5,000 students by 2025, Oregon State University President Ed Ray told a Bend audience Thursday

OSU hopes to grow by 35,000 to 40,000 students in coming years, but Ray said that's not feasible to happen solely in Corvallis, hence the push for Bend's programs to grow and become a four-year institution.

"Because of timing and circumstances, this is the next big thing we have to make happen," Ray said after a talk to the City Club of Central Oregon.

Ray told the audience OSU plans to expand its OSU-Cascades offerings to four-yuear degrees within three years, with a goal of a campus population of 3,000 to 5,000 by 2025.

The OSU leader said that move would help the state achieve its "40-40-20" goal of 40 percent of Oregonians with a college degree by 2025.

Still, Ray said there are many elements to work out before moving forward with the plan.

"Which four-year programs are going to start when, what numbers, how the finances pencil out, how does the staffing pencil out," Ray said.

"Do we have the physical capacity to provide students that education?" he asked. "If not, what's our plan to acquire the physical facilities?

At present, the school serves about 975 students with 15 undergraduate and two graduate degree programs, which likely would be the foundation of four-year degrees, at least to start.

"A big piece of it, and a reason why I was maybe too candid with people here: If this community doesn't step up and take the lead on making this happen, I think we're going to miss the opportunity," Ray said. "And I think that would be just tragic."

Ray also provided an overall picture of OSU's economic impact in the state, saying it has grown by almost $500 million over the past five years.