CORVALLIS - Beginning this fall, every Oregonian will have access to an education at Oregon State University that's as convenient as their home computer, telephone or mailbox.

Oregon State will deliver at least 11 new statewide degrees and several minors for professionals, allowing Oregonians access to OSU's educational resources without setting foot on the Corvallis campus. University officials say this outreach effort is the most ambitious of its kind in the nation.

The university also will establish an Alumni College, enabling former students to easily take additional courses toward a minor or second degree, maintain a "living transcript" and have a lifetime e-mail address at OSU.

The plans will be discussed this Thursday, March 6, at OSU's Faculty Senate meeting, which begins at 3 p.m. in LaSells Stewart Center.

"This is the first time, to my knowledge, that a university in this country has made the entire state its campus by providing these kinds of courses and curriculum across the state," said OSU President Paul Risser. "We are obliterating the term and the concept, 'distance learning,' since we now treat students the same - whether they are on or off the campus."

Oregon State currently offers a liberal studies degree in Bend, as well specialized degrees in agriculture, education and engineering. Under the new plan, OSU will enter into a number of partnerships with other institutions in the Oregon State System of Higher Education, as well as with Oregon community colleges to offer new programs and degrees.

Working with those partners, OSU will offer "baccalaureate completion" degrees in business, environmental sciences, natural resources, early childhood development, and health care administration; master's degrees in software engineering, environmental engineering, education, health care administration and public health; and a doctorate in pharmacy.

Through the "baccalaureate completion" degrees, students might take lower division courses at a community college, for example, and upper division courses from OSU - at that same community college site.

"We expect to establish partnerships in every part of the state within the next three years," said Sandra Woods, an OSU associate professor of engineering who is helping coordinate curriculum for the initiative.

Oregon State is planning to offer one or more degrees in Portland, Oregon City, Gresham, Salem, Astoria, Newport, Coos Bay, Eugene, Medford, Bend, Pendleton, Hood River, The Dalles, La Grande and Ontario.

"Oregonians from all over the state will have access to programs, whether they live in Brookings, St. Helens or Enterprise," Woods said.

OSU already has been designated by the state system as the lead institution for its "2 Plus 2" business degree, a cooperative effort between OSSHE universities with business programs and community colleges.

The university will begin offering some of the courses for its proposed new programs this fall, according to Woods. Individual courses, and even minors, can be offered sooner than new complete programs.

One hallmark of the OSU initiative will be flexibility, Woods said.

"Within each individual program, there may be a variety of media and modes of education," she said. "Courses will be taught face-to-face on site, through the World Wide Web, over Oregon Ed-Net, by use of video workbooks, and even on CD-ROMs. We will do whatever it takes to make it successful."

The traditional three-credit course will also take on a new look, Woods pointed out. Many courses will be offered in "modules" that can be taken in sequence or one credit at a time. "This will help accommodate the working schedules of many professionals," Woods said.

Oregonians may also get a career boost by seeking new minors from off-campus that increase their marketability, Woods said. Minors are planned in business, early childhood development, environmental policy, environmental sciences, natural resources, interactive multimedia, and environmental health.

"When you complete a minor, it's visible on your transcript and it demonstrates not only a new area of knowledge, but a willingness to advance your career," Woods said. "Earning a new minor after you've been working can really give a boost to someone who sees themselves as stuck in a career."

Not all of the degrees will be offered this fall, Woods said. Some are penciled in for 1998, and others are still on the drawing board. Exact locations of on-site classes will be announced later, she added.

"These degrees we're offering are needed in those locations," Woods said, "and we are working with partners to help meet those needs."

-30- NOTE TO EDITORS: A sidebar about Oregon State University's new Alumni College accompanies this news release.

Click photos to see a full-size version. Right click and save image to download.


Sandra Woods, 541-737-6837