CORVALLIS - On paper, it looked like a pretty good year.

Another successful recruiting year, resulting in a record number of freshmen applications, was expected to boost enrollment at Oregon State University by as many as 700 students over last year's total of 14,618.

But, cautioned admissions experts, you never know for sure until the students show up.

Now, after the second week of classes, it's obvious that the students have indeed shown up. As of Monday, OSU's enrollment had reached 15,784 students - nearly 8 percent more than last year.

"This is the largest first-year class of OSU students in 20 years and one of the largest in school history," said Andy Hashimoto, associate provost for academic affairs. "The university also has made a commitment to increase the retention of returning students, which is paying off."

The largest increase in students, by numbers and percentage, has been in OSU's University Exploratory Studies program. UESP has enrolled 811 students - 212 more than last year, an increase of 35 percent. The award-winning program helps students who are undecided about what to study find their niche. Earlier this year, the program received the Outstanding Institutional Advising Program Certificate of Merit from the National Academic Advising Association.

OSU also has seen large gains in pre-engineering, liberal art, and home economics and education.

Pre-engineering enrollment is up 12.8 percent, from 1,514 students last year to 1,708 this fall, and engineering majors also have jumped 7.2 percent. The College of Liberal Arts has 169 new students, an increase of 7.3 percent, while the College of Home Economics and Education has experienced a 9.4 percent increase in enrollment with 113 new students.

"Engineering and computer science enrollments are strong which is timely," Hashimoto said, "because they are helping to meet a critical need of Oregon."

The huge boost in enrollment should bring additional revenues to the university based on the new funding model approved by the Oregon University System and the Oregon Legislature last year. "We feel we are doing exactly what the legislature intended by increasing access to higher education, especially in programs critical to the needs of Oregon," Hashimoto said.

The exact impact on the university isn't yet clear, though OSU has put a priority on accommodating new students. "We've allocated $1 million to offer additional core courses this year to help meet the most critical access needs," Hashimoto said.

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Andy Hashimoto, 541-737-0732