As OSU-Cascades grows, what about COCC?

Community college leaders also expect growth, continued partnership after university moves

COCC, OSU-Cascades to continue partnership

BEND, Ore. - Central Oregon Community College and OSU-Cascades have lived side by side since OSU-Cascades opened in 2001. But soon, OSU will leave Awbrey Butte, opening its own four-year campus on the west side of Bend.

But that doesn't mean COCC is slowing down.

"We remain a high-quality pathway to the bachelor degree," said COCC President Jim Middleton recently.  "We're a 6,000-student institution that has a great heritage."

Middleton said the college will lose some students to OSU-Cascades, but he expects its expansion will add value to the community college -- and likely bring more students to COCC as well.

"It will allow them to open up more majors," Middleton said.  "And I think that's yet another reason why students would start here, and then move on to OSU or other institutions at a discounted price."

Cheaper price tags are why several COCC freshmen said they'd never start at a university.

"I'm going to save up my money before I go off to a university," said one new student.  "Just to be able to have some money and still get my core classes done for a lot cheaper."

Another student said she wanted to ease her way into college life.

"Start slow, start small and blossom," she said.

Other students said COCC's shorter programs get students career-ready without the time and money of a four-year degree.

And OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson appreciates COCC's variety.

"We're starting our hospitality management program, and we'd love to have some of their culinary courses in that degree program," Johnson said.

While Johnson said it's important for OSU-Cascades to start shaping its own identity outside of COCC, she also said it would be tough to expand OSU-Cascades on its own.

"We'll continue to partner with them on library services," Johnson said.  "We're not going to have a gym right away, maybe students will partner on intramurals, club sports, or things like that."

OSU-Cascades' current location at Cascades Hall is actually owned by COCC.

Both schools are working together with lawmakers to get OSU-Cascades out of its current 30 year lease.

Middleton said the timing is ideal, because COCC is scheduled to begin plans for a new, $11 million building. He said moving into Cascades Hall will be much cheaper for the school, and would require only a $5.3 million buyout.

Middleton said the building will be used for classrooms, offices and likely a new student success center.

Down the road, Johnson and Middleton said each school will continue to have its own strengths -- and they both believe a new university is a win for all.

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