OSU-Cascades applauds gov's $16 million pitch

Kitzhaber ranks school third in higher ed priorities

OSU-Cascades reacts to governor's proposal

Gov. John Kitzhaber laid out his higher education plan this week, and it includes $16 million for OSU-Cascades expansion into a four-year university. College faculty, staff and students said Wednesday that they hope is passes in the legislature.

"We know we have the governor's support, but it's the legislature who actually votes," OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson said. "So there will be competition for dollars. Even though everyone is supportive of education, it occurs in different places around the state."

Kitzhaber presented his $242 million plan for education construction projects this week, that would be paid for with bonds. He ranked OSU-Cascade's expansion as the third priority on his list of projects.

Fund-raisers have brought in $4 million, and the college would have to come up with an additional $4 million for the first phase.

"Just a few years ago, we were afraid the campus was going to close," said OSU-Cascades Advisory Board Secretary Laura Cooper. "We thought the state was going to cut off funding. And now, to hear the news that we're that high on the priority list,  it makes it seem real, like it's really going to happen."

Central Oregon lawmakers are in Salem, pushing for the four-year university. But their colleagues from around the state might need convincing.

"We're going to go to capital day in April for the four-year university, and to just show them that students are supporting the idea," said student government Vice President Alli Fletcher.

Several more classes and majors could be offered, meaning more students from all over the country might move to Bend.

"I think it's a great opportunity to bring students over here, and especially the international students that are looking to go to a four-year university," Fletcher said.

Once the students attend school here, many teachers and staff think they could wind up calling the High Desert home.  

"If you come to a place like Bend, you kind of want to make it your home anyway," said Student Life Coordinator Andrew Davis. "But if you come to a place like Bend, and you're connected to an institution, and you get a real sense of belonging and community for four years, I think it's going to be a lot harder to walk away, and people are going to want to stay."

OSU-Cascades currently has about 1,000 students on campus. Johnson says she hopes they can double that enrollment number by 2019.

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