BEND - Oregon State University and its partners today submitted to the Oregon University System their proposal for a new branch campus in Central Oregon, which they describe as a 21st century university that can use its broad array of offerings to create a "learning community" in this entire region.

The OSU proposal was made in collaboration with Eastern Oregon University and the Oregon Institute of Technology, and if approved can begin operation next year. It is outlined in extensive detail at the web site.

The plan will offer Central Oregonians 22 complete bachelor's degree programs and 10 master's degree programs in a full range of liberal arts and sciences, education, health, business, and engineering.

Of these 32 degrees, 17 already are being offered in the region and 15 are new. The curriculum and university structure were developed after months of work, 23 public meetings and a comprehensive effort to identify the needs of this region and heed the advice of local residents.

"I believe this is the most exciting proposal that I have seen in all my years in academic leadership, and I hope Central Oregonians share this enthusiasm," said OSU President Paul Risser. "It ventures far beyond the usual boundaries of traditional academic institutions to respond to the real needs, opportunities and aspirations in Central Oregon."

The new institution will be referred to as Central Oregon State University, although that name and other aspects of the institution could be changed following input from a Board of Advisors. This board will be composed of local residents and include students, leaders of business, government, public agencies and others, to continue OSU's insistence on local input and local guidance of the university.

Under the OSU plan, Central Oregon State University will be led by a president; have its own independent budget; develop a strong, on-site and full-time faculty; and be integrated with Central Oregon Community College to provide most student service functions. The quality of programs and expert instruction will be equal to those at OSU, officials say. And a "seamless student experience" will allow students to move easily from COCC to the new university, with coordinated registration, enrollment, financial aid, and other services.

The new university will be based in the new higher education building being developed on the COCC campus, but over time will no doubt expand from that base with additional infrastructure and even privately-constructed residence halls as needed for the growing student population.

By its fifth year of operation, COSU is expected to create more than 400 new jobs and have a positive economic impact of over $26 million in Central Oregon.

OSU has a historic commitment to Central Oregon that dates back to at least 1911 when the first Extension faculty member was appointed to Deschutes County. Currently, OSU and its proposal partners invest more than $6 million a year in the region for instructional and research activities. OSU, the premier research institution in the state of Oregon, already has 109 faculty and staff doing scientific studies in Central Oregon, and that number would be expected to increase with development of the new university. And OSU's sophisticated Distance and Continuing Education Program even now is turning out graduates.

But those activities would be dwarfed by the offerings of the new university, officials say.

By using an innovative collaboration between OSU, EOU and OIT, plus other members of the Oregon University System, a leading strength of OSU's proposal for the new university is its surprising breadth of degree offerings.

This includes 22 bachelor's degrees in these areas of study: humanities; social science; biological science; accounting; general science; information systems; international business; discourse studies; management; applied health; business administration; computer science; information technology; elementary and secondary education; early childhood and pre-elementary education; child, youth and family services; environmental science; general agriculture; industrial engineering; museum studies; natural resources; and outdoor recreation leadership and tourism.

It also includes within the first five years 10 master's degrees in these areas of study: nutrition and food management; public health management; public administration; nursing; teacher education; business administration; social work; public policy; environmental engineering; and natural resources. Beyond the academic core of the new university, OSU envisions a "learning community" that takes the educational, social and cultural outreach of the university to homes, K-12 schools, businesses and industry across Central Oregon. In partnership with community members and programs such as the Cascade Festival of Music, the High Desert Museum, and the Central Oregon Arts Association, COSU will help enrich the arts and culture community.

Programs will include such initiatives as the Alumni College; Center for Community Governance; Science and Math Investigative Learning Experience (SMILE) and other programs in the public schools; Academy for the Third Age to address needs of senior citizens; a Community Link Program that focuses on the economies of rural communities; educational and cultural outreach with the Community Learning Series; a strong athletic presence; and much more.

"The plan for Central Oregon State University is truly remarkable," Risser said. "It brings together the most advanced approaches and technologies for higher education with superb teachers, research and innovative partnerships.

"COSU is designed to be continuously responsive to the needs of Central Oregon, both now and in the future."

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Paul Risser, 541-737-4133