PORTLAND, Ore – Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray today called upon Oregonians and higher education institutions nationally to educate far more students from less wealthy families.

In his annual State of the University Address to more than 800 people at the Portland Convention Center, Ray said since 1970 the likelihood of graduation from college for students from families in the highest income bracket increased from 44 percent to 85 percent. Yet over the same time, for students from families in the lowest income bracket, the likelihood of graduation increased from 6 percent to only 9 percent.

“This is shameful,” Ray said. “We have literally doubled the educational attainment gap, and higher educational institutions are complicit in worsening income inequality across America. Oregon should care about this achievement gap. I ask each of you to join me – and Oregon State University – in addressing this crisis of inequity.”

Ray said Oregon State will address this challenge by expanding support programs for student success for OSU students; expanding its OSU-Cascades campus in Bend; offering learner programs through OSU Extension; and expanding academic programs offered by Oregon State in the Portland region. 

“Serving the region is part of our mission as Oregon’s statewide university and complements the work we do in Corvallis and Bend, as well as major OSU initiatives,” Ray said.

Oregon State’s Portland plans include a decision to centralize some existing Oregon State regional programs and offices within an expanded presence in the historic Meier & Frank Building in downtown Portland adjacent to Pioneer Courthouse Square. 

The Portland initiative will seek to serve unmet learner needs by providing innovative programs through online and in-person instruction.

“We are developing -- and plan to unveil this fall -- hybrid online graduate and undergraduate offerings in the fields of business, cybersecurity, and human development and family sciences,” Ray said. 

The initiative will use a hub-and-spoke system, in which the Meier & Frank Building space is the hub of Oregon State’s Portland region operations. Other OSU locations throughout the Portland area will represent the spokes. The effort will help unify OSU programs in the Portland region, including Oregon State’s Food Innovation Center in The Pearl; teaching and research partnerships between OSU’s colleges of Pharmacy and Engineering and Oregon Health and Science University; educational programs with local school districts; and Extension programming in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties.

Ray called on the state Legislature this month to support $39.5 million in state bonding for a second classroom building at OSU-Cascades.

“Without such support, the Legislature will ignore the demand for higher education in the fastest growing region in Oregon,” Ray said. “As we look to the future, we must be unwavering in our commitment to success for all students – wherever they may be.” 

Ray also shared results from a just-released economic impact study, which he said underscored OSU’s transformative role as Oregon’s statewide university. Conducted by ECONorthwest, the study found that Oregon State’s gross economic and societal impact in 2017 totaled $2.71 billion – up $343 million from three years ago.

OSU operations were responsible for supporting 30,451 jobs statewide. In Portland, OSU was responsible for $281.8 million in gross economic activity and 3,884 jobs. Statewide that number will only grow as OSU expands its facilities and programs. For example, OSU-Cascades is expected to contribute $134.4 million and 2,083 jobs to the state’s economy in 2025, more than a threefold increase since 2015.

In addition, Ray provided an update on OSU’s Student Success Initiative, which he launched two years ago with two main goals: to raise first-year retention rates for all undergraduate students to 90 percent and raise six-year graduation rates for all undergraduate students to 70 percent.

A year ago, the OSU Foundation’s Board of Trustees committed to raise $150 million to support the student success initiative. Ray announced that the foundation has already raised $79 million. 

He also said students are already feeling the impact of the initiative. For example, last June OSU graduated 400 more students with financial need compared to four years ago. And 43 percent of graduates had no debt when they earned their degrees. The national average is 32 percent.

This year’s State of the University event coincides with OSU150, the 15-month celebration of the university’s 150th anniversary, which will continue through October. Ray outlined several key upcoming events:

  • On Feb. 10, a seven-month exhibit, “Oregon State University: A Legacy of Transformation,” opens at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland.
  • On Feb. 15, “Saving Atlantis,” an OSU-produced documentary that tells the story of how OSU researchers are working to save the world’s coral reefs, will be shown at OMSI in Portland. Subsequent screenings will be held in Corvallis and Newport.
  • Next fall, OSU will bring together scientists and national thought leaders to consider how the 21st century economy and society will be shaped by artificial intelligence and robotics.

During the speech, Ray also listed many notable achievements for OSU in the past year. These included:

  • In June, OSU graduated its largest class ever, with 6,807 students.
  • In fall, enrollment totaled 31,904 students, making OSU Oregon’s largest university for the fourth straight year.
  • In 2017, grant-funded research at OSU totaled a record $441 million – a 31 percent increase over 2016. This included a $122 million National Science Foundation grant to build a regional research vessel that will be stationed at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.
  • The College of Forestry being ranked second in the world; the ocean studies program being ranked third in the world; the College of Agricultural Sciences being ranked 10th nationally; and the online liberal arts degree offerings being ranked first in the nation.
  • U.S. News & World Report for the fourth year in a row judging OSU’s Ecampus online undergraduate programs among the nation’s best – with a No. 6 ranking.
  • An anonymous donor contributing $25 million to help build a $60 million arts and education complex on OSU’s Corvallis campus.
  • And, just two weeks ago, a $50 million gift, the largest gift in the university’s history, to rename the College of Veterinary Medicine the Gary R. Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine.
Story By: 

Sean Nealon, 541-737-0787, [email protected]


Steve Clark, 541-737-3808, [email protected]


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