Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray Monday applauded the regional collaboration underway in support of Oregon State University – Cascades during his annual State of the University Address. He also called upon local community members to join him in urging state leaders to increase funding for higher education in Central Oregon and around the state.
Ray gave his address to an audience of more than 350 at the Riverhouse on the Deschutes.
In his speech, Ray said students and their families are being unfairly challenged to pay increasingly more of the cost of their higher education. He said OSU’s students in Corvallis pay more than 65 percent of the cost of their education and the state only 22 percent — a 50 percent decline in the state’s relative support over the past 15 years.
“Without additional state support, Oregon’s universities will be forced to shunt even more costs onto the shoulders of students and cut staffing and programs,” Ray said.
As a result, he said, a college education increasingly will be attainable only by those from wealthy families. “I ask each of you to join me in addressing this crisis of inequity. This resolve must start with a debate in Salem about how Oregon funds its universities,” he said.
In his address, Ray detailed the momentum occurring throughout the university, including at OSU-Cascades with the Bend City Council’s approval campus master plan, and state funding and community philanthropic support for a second academic building that will focus on the STEAM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
He also focused on the importance of addressing student mental health, and called the tripling of the suicide rate among young adults as a national health crisis. He committed to making improved student wellness at Oregon State a university-wide priority.
Ray cited notable achievements at Oregon State and OSU-Cascades:
- With a record 32,011 students, OSU is Oregon’s largest university for the fifth straight year. Enrollment includes 1,259 at OSU-Cascades, a 4.6 percent increase from the previous year. At OSU-Cascades, 88.4 percent of undergraduates are Oregonians, and 31.3 percent of students are the first in their family to attend college.
- In 2018, grant-funded research at Oregon State totaled $382 million. At OSU-Cascades, Bahman Abbasi, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, received a $2 million award to create solar-powered desalination technology that can provide clean water around the globe.
- A new degree partnership program that allows Central Oregon Community College students seeking a bachelor’s degree from OSU-Cascades to be jointly admitted and enrolled at both schools.
- One year since being launched, the OSU-Cascades Innovation Co-Lab has helped 18 start-up companies raise more than $1.5 million and create more than 30 new jobs.
Ray also noted OSU’s commitment to Central Oregon via its teaching and research at OSU-Cascades and the localized expertise, research and programs provided by OSU Extension and at agricultural experiment stations in Burns and Madras.
Ray also recognized the significant leadership contributions of the late Paul Risser, who served as OSU’s president from 1996 to 2002. Risser’s legacy in Central Oregon will be honored at an event at OSU-Cascades on May 17.
Following Ray’s speech, attendees contributed to “Vision Oregon,” an OSU-led initiative for Oregonians to share what they envision Oregon’s future to be in 50 years. Over the next eight months, OSU will gather input from Oregonians about what they aspire their state to address and achieve by 2068. OSU will share those goals and views in early October before placing a record of the goals in time capsules on the university’s campuses in Corvallis and Bend.