CORVALLIS - Officials at Oregon State University said today they are encouraged by the decision of Joe Cox, chancellor of the Oregon University System, to recommend acceptance of OSU's proposal for a branch campus in Central Oregon, and that they are enthused about continuing their work to make the new university a reality.

If the recommendation is approved later this month by the Oregon State Board of Higher Education, OSU will implement its fast-track transition plans to create the new campus and enroll the first students by fall, 2001, said OSU President Paul Risser. Preliminary work will begin immediately, he said. "The future of higher education in Central Oregon begins today," Risser said.

Risser complimented the University of Oregon for the depth and strength of its proposal.

"The open, spirited and merit-based process by which this decision was based no doubt motivated each university to go the extra mile to develop creative proposals that offer so much to the residents of Central Oregon," Risser said. "When the people of Oregon are served, we can all take pride and share in a sense of accomplishment."

In creating the new university, Risser said OSU is ready and eager to work with Central Oregon Community College, its proposal partners at Eastern Oregon University and the Oregon Institute of Technology, and other universities, including the University of Oregon, who wish to contribute courses or degrees.

"For decades the residents of Central Oregon have been seeking their own university," Risser said. "We've been proud to work in the region with hundreds of caring, energetic citizens to develop this proposal and make sure it reflects their vision, their hopes and needs.

"We're also deeply grateful to Chancellor Cox and his staff for their thorough analysis and belief in our concept of a 21st Century Learning Community. This is an idea about which we are passionate, which we believe can become a new model for the advancement of higher education in this country."

Upon approval by the State Board of Higher Education, OSU will work diligently with other universities, the Chancellor's Office and board to ensure that the Oregon Legislature understands the value and need to invest in this new higher education initiative, and provide the necessary funding for the new campus, Risser said.

Tim White, provost and executive vice president of OSU, said administrators and faculty will hit the ground running to turn the plan for the branch campus into a working reality.

"We'll meet shortly with leaders from Central Oregon Community College and other community leaders to get our transition plans moving," White said. "We will also engage planning with leadership from the existing University Center and other universities, as clearly there's a lot of work to do in a very short time.

"But on the other hand, we have a detailed, very well thought out plan to use as a working blueprint. And we won't be recalcitrant to make improvements on that plan based on the input we receive from educators, citizens, legislators, students and community leaders."

Anyone not yet familiar with the details of OSU's plan may wish to review them at OSU's Web page, White said.

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Tim White, 541-737-0733