OSU enrollment (copy)

Students study in the recently completed Edward J. Ray Hall at Oregon State University-Cascades.

Oregon State University-Cascades Campus now has its first doctoral program. It has a beautiful campus — reclaiming a mining pit. Its student population is growing when other colleges across the country are struggling.

It’s a Central Oregon success story. Celebrate it. And keep fighting for it.

OSU first began offering classes in Bend, long ago, in 1981. But a four-year institution was never guaranteed.

Local residents had to fight for it. Credit goes to Patti Moss, the then head of what was the Bank of the Cascades; the late John Costa, The Bulletin’s former publisher and editor; and many others. At the time, and this is more than a dozen years ago, Gov. John Kitzhaber said he wouldn’t support a new, independent institution.

A branch campus? He said yes.

That idea didn’t get a welcome reception at the University of Oregon. The concern then was not that different than the campus sometimes gets now at the state level: Anything OSU-Cascades gets is a dollar that doesn’t go someplace else.

Then-Oregon State University president, the late Paul Risser, was different. He offered to do anything he could to help. He saw the need in Central Oregon.

In 2001, OSU was selected to create and manage the branch campus. The Legislature put $7.2 million toward it. And OSU established a presence at Central Oregon Community College.

Enrollment began to jump. The campus often led all the others in the university system in percentage growth. It was providing a great local education opportunity as Bend’s own growth took off.

In 2012, millions from the local community were pledged in gifts to the idea of an independent campus. The state approved the expansion of the school into a four-year institution. The state approved $16 million in 2013. Another $4 million came in gifts from donors. The new campus opened in September 2016.

And now it has its first doctoral program, a doctorate of physical therapy program. Some 45 students are enrolled. From our view, here in Central Oregon, that just makes sense. But earlier this year, a bill was introduced in the Legislature that would have killed that doctoral program and aimed to cap what more OSU-Cascades might grow to become.

We need to celebrate OSU-Cascades. And we need to keep fighting for it.

If you happen to get a chance to ask any of the many candidates for governor a question, one to ask is: What is their vision for the future of OSU-Cascades?

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