CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University students needing an extra measure of academic support will soon have access to enhanced programs, thanks to a $5 million gift from an anonymous donor.

The gift has jump-started the process for constructing a new Student Success Center on campus, a high priority in OSU's first capital campaign. The new facility aims to improve student graduation and retention rates at OSU. It will offer an array of academic support programs including a new "bridge" program designed to help new and transfer students who face challenges transitioning to the environment of a large university.

The Student Success Center, a collaboration between athletic and campus academic services, will also provide the opportunity for interaction and shared learning between student-athletes and other campus students in a state-of-the-art tutoring center.

"With this gift, we will be able reach students during their critical first year on campus with services that enhance their engagement with the university," said OSU Provost Sabah Randhawa. "Ultimately, the goal is to improve first-year retention rates and graduation rates at OSU. More students will complete their studies and earn college degrees. This has great benefits for our economy and our society."

University officials are considering constructing the new building in the area of 26th Street and Washington Way, a location close to residence halls and athletic facilities. Building and equipping the center is expected to cost more than $10 million. The OSU Foundation and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics are working to raise additional funds for the center.

Extending the services offered at the Academic Success Center at Waldo Hall on campus, the new facility will provide space for counseling offices, meeting rooms and a computer lab. The center's programs will include tutoring, peer study sessions, academic advising and study skills classes, as well as new bridge programs based on an OSU athletics program model that helps new student athletes transition to Oregon State.

"We've been very successful in helping our student athletes excel academically," said Bob De Carolis, the OSU athletic director. "Our NCAA graduation success rate is 75 percent, the third highest in the Pac-10 (Conference). The Student Success Center will enable us to expand and enhance what we've learned in athletics and offer that to more OSU students."

Athletics has enhanced its academic services for student athletes in recent years, a key component of which is the two-year-old BEST program, which stands for Bridge to Encourage Students in Transition. The BEST program brings new and transfer student-athletes to campus before classes begin and it helps them develop good study habits, navigate the university, and manage time and finances. Through the Student Success Center, similar bridge programs will be offered to more students who are new to OSU.

OSU's head football coach Mike Riley has witnessed the program's benefits in his players.

"The BEST program has had a huge impact for newcomers to the team," Riley said. "If we can offer this support to other OSU students, I think we'll see tremendous benefits across campus."

The Campaign for OSU, the university's first comprehensive fundraising campaign, recently surpassed $400 million in new commitments toward a $625 million goal. More than 42,500 households have participated to date. Guided by OSU's strategic plan, the campaign seeks contributions to provide opportunities for students, strengthen the Oregon economy and conduct research that changes the world.

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Sabah Randhawa,