CORVALLIS, Ore. - Classes began this week at Oregon State University, and campus officials say they expect about 24,600 students on the main campus in Corvallis this fall.

Another 3,420 students are expected to enroll at OSU through Ecampus, the university's distance learning program, which has fueled much of the institution's enrollment growth over the past two to three years. The number of Ecampus students is up an estimated 24 percent over last year.

Overall, Oregon State expects to serve more than 28,000 students this fall term - an all-time record. An additional 900 students are expected to enroll at the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend. Final enrollment numbers will be available from the Oregon University System at the end of the fourth week of fall term.

Although OSU's overall growth is significant, a smaller increase is projected on the Corvallis campus - part of an enrollment management strategy, according to university officials.

 "Our growth this year is right in line with the university's plan to strategically manage enrollment," said Kate Peterson, OSU's assistant provost for enrollment management. "We want to continue to be accessible to Oregonians, increase our international enrollment and become even more diverse, yet moderate the growth on our Corvallis campus."

Lisa Templeton, executive director of Ecampus, said the increase in distance learning students continues a trend that has seen rapid growth for several years. OSU has been cited as one of the nation's top 25 online universities for four consecutive years.

"Most of our distance students are adult learners who are working, home with the family or both," Templeton said. "We also have many students in the military, and military spouses, as well as students who prefer online learning. Our students are usually part-time, and a number of students at the Corvallis campus will take an online course or two that fits into their schedule."

Among the most popular online programs are computer science and degree programs in natural resources and fisheries and wildlife.

The popularity of OSU with military veterans is not just through Ecampus, OSU officials say. Another area of growth this fall is with military veterans, their families and students on active duty, according to Peterson. "Realistically, we could reach 1,100 students this fall who are receiving military benefits."

Gus Bedwell, OSU's Veterans Resources coordinator, said OSU thus far has 974 student veterans drawing Veterans Administration (VA) Education benefits, and an additional 125 students receiving military tuition assistance - some of which also are veterans.

"The university is working hard to welcome these veterans and their families to campus, helping them with VA benefits and providing cultural training not only for the students, but for OSU faculty, staff and the local community," Bedwell said. "The opening of a Veterans Lounge in 2010 gives our student veterans a safe and comfortable place to congregate and study."

International student enrollment continues to grow at Oregon State since it began collaborating with INTO University Partnerships in 2008 to recruit students overseas. The INTO OSU program is anticipating a 16 percent increase in enrollment this year to approximately 1,400 students. Combined with other international students, OSU expects an international enrollment of more than 10 percent of its student body on the Corvallis campus, or some 2,800 students.

A quick snapshot of new students this fall at OSU reveals that the incoming class comes from 35 Oregon counties, all 50 states and U.S. territories, and 58 foreign countries. Among the other highlights:

  • Twelve incoming Oregon State University students had perfect SAT scores in math, and 10 had perfect SAT verbal scores;
  • Nine incoming students were National Merit finalists;
  • 52 new students are OSU Presidential Scholars, the university's most prestigious scholarship. Begun in 2011, scholarships are awarded to exceptional Oregon residents with grade point averages of 3.85 or higher and/or SAT scores of 1,900-plus. Awards are for $8,000 a year.
  • A total of 149 valedictorians from Oregon high schools are enrolling at OSU this fall, increasing the number of high-achieving freshmen - those with high school grade point averages of 3.75 or higher - to an estimated 1,130 students.

OSU is working to welcome and accommodate the new students - and introduce them to initiatives such as the First Year Experience program that help new students succeed, officials say.

The university is building a new residence hall on the southeast end of campus that will help accommodate growth. Construction on the five-story, $28 million building adjacent to Wilson Hall began this summer. When it opens in fall of 2014, it will house an additional 324 students.

The university's enrollment in fall term of 2012 was 26,393 students, including Ecampus (but not including OSU-Cascades).

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Kate Peterson, 541-737-0759,