OSU-Cascades secures $16 million from lawmakers

Funding assured on session's last day; picking site next step

POSTED: 8:08 PM PDT July 8, 2013    UPDATED: 8:28 AM PDT July 11, 2013 
BEND, Ore. -

The largest region in the country without a four-year university is $16 million closer to erasing that statistic.

The High Desert has Central Oregon Community College and OSU-Cascades -- but each are just two-year schools, together giving students a four-year degree.

"It's the most critical thing we need," Deschutes County Commissioner Alan Unger said Monday.

On the final day of the 2013 session, state lawmakers passed a funding package Monday to help OSU-Cascades expand from a two-year college to a full-four year university.

The university hopes to open its doors to freshman in fall of 2015.

As for the woman driving it all, OSU-Cascades Vice-President Becky Johnson is already looking forward to the next steps.

"The hard part right now is finding a location for the campus," Johnson said.

Johnson said the university will need about 80,000 square feet of classrooms and offices for teachers -- about eight acres now -- and they want room to expand in the future for housing, student centers and other facilities.

University officials were eying a piece of property near the roundabout at Simpson and Colorado avenues, but now the price tag may be too high.

"The market has changed quite a bit," Johnson said. "We're probably about two years behind to get really good deals on real estate."

Unger said there's also some property available further west.

"The county has 70 acres in the area of interest," he said. "We have the (former) Demolition Landfill that is there."

Johnson said the county's property near Simpson and Century Drive is a possibility further down the road, but environmental hazards wouldn't allow it to be ready any time soon.

The university is also looking for existing buildings to buy as well. Johnson said staying on the Westside, near the school's Graduate and Research Center, is important.

"We also think it's a more vibrant feel for the campus to have students right in the heart of Bend, and able to walk to the movie theater or the restaurants," Johnson said.

She added that an urban campus will help the university achieve better sustainability in its mission, allowing some students and faculty to walk and ride bikes to class.

OSU--Cascades hopes to have a location purchased within the next month. The next step will be designing the new campus.