ORVALLIS - Nearly two years ago, state education leaders saw the need for a new business degree program that would provide a more seamless transition for community college students into Oregon universities, and attract former students who had never finished their degree requirements.

This fall Oregon State University will launch Business-ONE, a new, cooperative distance learning program that will fill the needs of both students and industry, education leaders say.

"The Business-ONE program offers great potential for the state of Oregon," said Don Parker, dean of OSU's College of Business. "It will, for the first time, provide an opportunity for people around the state to complete an accredited business degree at a local community college. Our goal for the future is to expand this opportunity to an even larger number of Oregonians.

"For many people, distance education represents their only opportunity to complete a degree," Parker added.

Business-ONE is the result of an Oregon State System of Higher Education initiative to create more opportunities for students interested in pursuing business degrees. OSU was given the leadership role by OSSHE to create a program giving students access to a university-level business program and have enough flexibility to cater to 0regonians with full-time jobs who wanted to return to school.

"Business-ONE is an important part of our new OSU Statewide program, which is designed to meet the needs of Oregonians all across our state," said Paul Risser, president of Oregon State University. "It demonstrates that OSU is listening to its customers and meeting their needs."

The first course in the program will be offered this fall term. "Organizational Behavior," BA 350, will be offered via Oregon Ed-Net to downlink sites at Portland Community College-Sylvania campus; Chemeketa Community College, Salem; Central Oregon Community College, Bend; Southwestern Oregon Community College, Coos Bay-North Bend; and Linn-Benton Community College, Albany.

Already the program is raising interest in those sites among prospective students and community college leaders.

"Business-ONE will make the classes that our students take here at Chemeketa mesh seamlessly with classes at Oregon State," said Terry Horn, director of business management programs at Chemeketa Community College.

"It opens the door to a baccalaureate degree for a lot of students who are working during the day and can't attend traditional class sessions," she added.

John Sneed, director of distance education at PCC-Sylvania, said the program will appeal to adult learners who cannot relocate to a university setting.

"What students really lack is time," he said. "People need to be in control of their time. That is how these programs can work to their advantage."

Students enrolling in Business-ONE will need to have completed their freshman and sophomore years, along with certain prerequisites, according to Bruce DeYoung, who is coordinating the OSU program. By taking two courses each term - one in business and the other to satisfy university requirements - students can earn a bachelor of science degree in business administration in four more years, he added.

And they won't have to set foot on the OSU campus.

Likewise, DeYoung said, additional courses and downlink sites will be added as funding becomes available. Some of the courses will be taught on-site, others will be offered via Ed-Net and other satellite technology, others will take advantage of CD-ROM and video capabilities, and the Internet and World Wide Web will be used extensively.

Students who complete the degree requirements also will earn a minor in communication, according to Parker, which will be an added benefit to the state's business community.

"Oregon has one of the fastest growing economies in the country, especially in high technology," Parker said. "If the state's rapid economic growth is to continue, we must have a dependable source of well-educated people. By taking a business degree to people who do not have ready access to a university, we can make a significant contribution to filling this need.

"In doing so, we will help Oregon businesses and, at the same time, assist a large number of people in improving their job prospects and the quality of their lives," Parker added.

OSU officials say participants in the new program likely will include recent community college graduates. Most of the interest, however, is apt to come from non-traditional students.

"These may be older adults in the work force, with or without families, who would like to take courses at home but at a reasonable pace," DeYoung said. "Many of them are in professional situations where, in order to advance, they need additional training and a degree. But acquiring those things was difficult if not impossible.

"Business-ONE," DeYoung added, "is designed to break down those barriers."

More information on the Business-ONE program is available by calling 1-800-228-3187.

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Don Parker, 541-737-6024