CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University’s fall 2020 enrollment reached a record level, driven by many factors, including increases in students of color and students enrolled in the university’s online Ecampus program and OSU-Cascades in Bend.
With 33,359 students enrolled this fall, up 585 students over last year, a 1.8% increase, OSU is the largest university in the state for the seventh consecutive year.
The university also saw a double-digit increase in transfer students from community colleges and four-year colleges and universities. Enrollment of veterans at OSU increased by 10.7% to 1,387 students – or 4.3% of the student body. Oregon State’s fall enrollment in Corvallis includes 8,915 students of color, an increase of 588 students or 7.1%, over last year. Students of color now make up a record of more than 27% of OSU’s overall enrollment. That figure more than doubles the enrollment of students of color in 2010, when the number was 4,179.
Graduate student enrollment increased 4% in Corvallis and 13.7% at OSU-Cascades. In Corvallis, Oregon residents attending graduate school increased 17.5%.
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, OSU’s enrollment counters declines in college enrollment in Oregon and nationwide. A report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center estimated an overall 3% decrease in postsecondary enrollment nationally this fall fueled by uncertainties surrounding the pandemic.
Overall, freshmen enrollment within OSU increased over last year by nearly 4% to 3,892 students from 3,747. Among freshmen, Ecampus enrollment increased just over 120%; OSU-Cascades by 22%; and Corvallis by 1%. Nationally, the Clearinghouse Research Center estimated that universities and colleges saw as much as a 16% decreases in the enrollment of new freshman.
“Oregon State University students want to learn, make progress toward their degrees and engage safely in their college education among friends – even in this pandemic,” said OSU President F. King Alexander. “It is clear that they greatly value an Oregon State University education.”
Oregon State continues to be a school of choice among Oregon residents with 13,428 students, or 71.8%, of the Corvallis campus degree-seeking undergraduate enrollment coming from the state. That includes students from all 36 Oregon counties. At OSU-Cascades, 1,189 students, representing 86.5% of the campus enrollment, are Oregon residents.
“OSU is Oregon’s statewide university,” Alexander said. “We are committed to provide access to a high quality college education for all Oregonians at our campuses in Corvallis and in Bend, centers in Newport and Portland, and where they live and want to learn through online education and degrees offered through Ecampus.”
Enrollment at OSU’s Corvallis campus totals 23,266 students. That represents 937 fewer students compared to fall 2019.
“The decline in Corvallis enrollment follows national trends this fall of fewer out-of-state students and international students declining to travel from their home communities due to the pandemic and other concerns, including travel restrictions,” said Alexander.
Megan Bauer, an 18-year-old freshman, didn’t let the pandemic dissuade her from coming to Corvallis from Washington state this fall.
“When I left for college, everyone was telling me, ‘See you in two weeks!’ And now here we are in November, almost done with the term,” she said. “I think OSU is doing really well. I’m pleasantly surprised.”
Over the summer, she said OSU hosted many Zoom social events, encouraging incoming freshmen to meet new people. And since students have been on campus, the university has sent students creative projects like mini-pumpkins and gingerbread houses to decorate, along with self-care kits with tea and chocolate.
Jenna Fryer, 22, moved to Corvallis this fall from New York to start her master’s degree in food science and technology in the College of Agricultural Sciences. The pandemic didn’t alter her plans to come to OSU, though it did mean canceling a planned visit to Corvallis, so she arrived on campus sight unseen.
“Obviously there’s a lot of challenges, but in my personal lab I feel I’m able to get my degree work done while remaining safe,” Fryer said. The pandemic means she only spends about 3-5 hours a week in the lab, where she’s studying the effects of smoke on wine grapes, and does the rest of her work remotely.
Much of OSU’s enrollment growth was fueled by its nationally ranked Ecampus program, which has 8,840 students enrolled solely in it, an increase of 1,373 students, or 18.4%, over last year. The growth is due in part to the flexibility of Ecampus classes, especially during the pandemic. Ecampus delivers more than 80 undergraduate and graduate programs.
Nathalie Orozco, who lives in La Habra, Calif., enrolled in the Ecampus fisheries and wildlife sciences bachelor’s program this summer. The 30-year-old, who works full-time in business operations, already has a bachelor’s degree in history from UCLA.
But she has always been passionate about animals, conservation and the environment. That led to a conversation with her roommate while they were quarantining during the pandemic.
“I probably would not have gone back to school if it were not for COVID,” Orozco said. “That’s the silver lining of the pandemic. I have a lot more free time because I can’t do as much. I thought if I am going to have all this time, I might as well make it productive.”
The flexibility of the Ecampus program sold her.
“It made so much sense,” she said. “I’m able to go at my own pace and do work on my own time, which allows me to continue working full time.”
OSU-Cascades saw an increase in enrollment with 1,374 students enrolled this fall, a 4.8% increase over last year. At OSU-Cascades, graduate student enrollment jumped 13.7%, while the total enrollment of students of color increased 11.4% and now totals 18.5% of enrollment. For more information about OSU-Cascades’ fall 2019 enrollment data visit: https://beav.es/oVU.
Taw Foltz transferred from Central Oregon Community College to OSU-Cascades, where he is studying human development and family sciences. A member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, he was raised by a single mother and attended Madras High School.
Foltz, who is 41, worked with youth in drug and alcohol prevention and in fire prevention on the reservation, ran for the Warm Springs tribal council, and coached high school basketball and softball – but said that his academic journey stalled for two decades. Before his mother passed away he promised her that he would earn his college degree.
"Graduation to me means everything,” he said. “I want to be an example for my kids, my community, and for everyone who has put off going back to school for whatever reason. I want Native Americans everywhere to know that college is an option for them regardless of the current situation they may find themselves in. I am proof that no matter what age, you can earn a college degree as long as you put in the time and effort.”
Foltz will earn his bachelor’s degree in 2021, and hopes to continue on to graduate school to earn a master’s degree in teaching and one day teach physical education.
Oregon State’s fall enrollment includes:
Oregon State continues to attract top students. The average GPA of new students coming to OSU from high school is 3.61. Additionally, 499 students entered the university’s Honors College this fall. Oregon State’s Honors College enrolls 5.6% of all undergraduates, or 1,494 students – a 4.5% increase over 2019.
As well, of OSU’s entering freshmen, 10 are National Merit award winners and 62 are Presidential Scholars, Oregon State’s most prestigious scholarship award.
Engineering remains the most popular discipline at Oregon State. The College of Engineering has 9,541 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled this fall. The next largest programs are the College of Liberal Arts, 4,423 students; the College of Business, 3,986; the College of Science, 3,839; the College of Agricultural Sciences, 2,901; and the College of Public Health and Human Sciences, 2,415.
Enrollments in other colleges and programs are: College of Forestry, 1,275; College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences, 1,092; University Exploratory Studies, 833; College of Education, 449; College of Pharmacy, 359; College of Veterinary Medicine, 294; and interdisciplinary graduate programs, 864.
The most popular undergraduate majors at Oregon State are computer science, followed by business administration, mechanical engineering, psychology and general engineering. General engineering is a program for entering undergraduates in the College of Engineering who will later select a specific engineering major.
About Oregon State University: As one of only two land, sea, space and sun grant universities in the nation, Oregon State serves Oregon and the world by working on today’s most pressing issues. Our more than 33,000 students come from across the globe, and our programs operate in every Oregon county. Oregon State receives more research funding than all of the state’s comprehensive public universities combined. At our campuses in Corvallis and Bend, marine research center in Newport and award-winning Ecampus, we excel at shaping today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders.