STRATEGY FOR EXPANDING HIGHER EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES IN CENTRAL OREGON: 2000-2015
The Oregon State Board of Higher Education (OSBHE) began a serious exploration of the options to expand higher educational services in Central Oregon in July 1998 when it met jointly with the board of Central Oregon Community College (COCC) to discuss regional growth and educational needs. During that meeting, both boards agreed to work on a long-term vision and strategic plan.
In December 1998, OSBHE approved a ten-year conceptual plan to expand programs and services in Central Oregon. Chancellor Joseph Cox appointed the Central Oregon Regional Advisory Board (CORAB) three months later to study alternatives and to fashion a more definitive proposal to be considered as part of the Oregon University System's legislative request planning for 2001-2003. In December 1999, CORAB recommended that OSBHE develop a separate, upper-division "capstone" university for the region. Using the CORAB report as an important starting point, OSBHE President Thomas Imeson requested that the Chancellor's Office conduct a more elaborate study of the issues and report its findings.
In January 2000, Governor John Kitzhaber, citing the innovative cooperation evolving among the Oregon University System, Central Oregon Community College, and participating independent institutions, declared that he would "direct the Oregon Board of Higher Education to develop a proposal and a budget to build on this partnership and expand--on a stable and permanent basis--four-year degree offerings in Bend as a prototype for other community colleges across the state."
The detailed analysis provided in this report and accompanying appendices constitute the Chancellor's response to the charges of the Governor and OSBHE.
Demographic and Economic Context
Recent analyses of Oregon's population confirm that Central Oregon's three counties compose the fastest-growing area of the state. Annual growth in the region has averaged 3.5% from 1990 to 1999, compared to only 1.6% statewide. Another 3% in average growth is forecast through 2010, and an additional increase from the current estimated population of 149,000 to 217,000 people is expected by 2015. This growth is projected to be higher than the state averages for populations aged 18-24 and 20-34 years old.
Some perspective on this trend is gained, however, when it is compared to Oregon's second fastest-growing region: the Portland metropolitan area. This four-county region is projected to add more than 315,000 people by 2015. Three of these four counties are expected to grow by over 30% during this period, leading to a total population of 1.8 million.
Central Oregon's regional economy has grown and diversified in the 1990s and is expected to remain fairly strong for the next decade. According to the Oregon Employment Department, within the next ten years, some 2,300 new jobs in the region will require job seekers to hold a bachelor's degree or better. The greatest need is forecast in computing and technology, education, health, and social services. These occupations will require solid postsecondary education in the liberal arts, computer sciences, and mathematics.
Existing Faculties and Facilities
Several factors contribute to a strong academic base for expanding upper-division programs in Central Oregon. Prominent among these are the highly qualified faculty at both COCC and COUC. COCC employs 89 full-time faculty, a substantial proportion of whom hold doctoral degrees. At COUC, eight of the ten full-time faculty on site hold a doctorate. In addition, a new "smart" classroom building planned for the COCC campus will help serve classroom and office needs commonly shared by both entities. The Oregon University System has secured $1 million in federal funds toward the cost of the building, which it expects to lease from COCC.
Within this demographic, economic, and academic environment, and to provide for a range of assumptions, two scenarios - one based on "current trends" and one on "accelerated trends"- were used to project enrollment demand over three five-year intervals. The current trends scenario assumed that the demographic, economic, and enrollment patterns now unfolding, both statewide and in Central Oregon, would not change during the period examined. The accelerated trends scenario assumed aggressive growth among these variables, including more rapid growth in freshman participation, higher retention and transfer rates from other institutions, and greater enrollment by nontraditional students. Assuming current trends, the estimates suggest that the region might sustain a headcount undergraduate enrollment ranging from 1,100 students in 2005 to 1,450 in 2015. Assuming accelerated trends, undergraduate headcount enrollment could range as high as 2,220 in 2005 to 3,500 in 2015.
Four models representing various combinations of resources, both existing and those yet-to-be, were examined under the two enrollment scenarios just described. These models were:
Using current dollar costs and projected enrollment data developed for the study, the establishment of a branch campus would result in an estimated expenditure of $3.6 million in state General Funds for 457 full-time equivalent students (FTE) by 2004-05. By comparison, significant expansion of COUC would cost $4.1 million, while development of a capstone campus would cost $6.5 million. Under a larger enrollment assumption of 2,185 FTE students, the cost of converting COCC into a four-year university with a community college division--presuming that all appropriate state and local resources currently designated for the community college would shift to the new, four-year university--would be an estimated $11.6 million. The enrollment assumption is larger for this model because students in many lower-level academic programs currently offered by COCC would be included in the new campus's total enrollment.
The branch model maintains its lower cost estimate even using more-accelerated growth projections. At 767 FTE, a branch campus would cost $5.1 million in state General Funds compared to $5.9 million for an expanded COUC and $8 million for a capstone institution. Assuming an enrollment of 2,729 by 2004-05, the four-year conversion model would require $14.8 million in General Funds.
Given these strengths and the projected demand for postsecondary education in Central Oregon, under both current and accelerated assumptions, the case for expanding access in this region is well justified.
The challenge has been finding the means in an era of limited state resources to create a cost-effective partnership that meets these needs and continues, in the Governor's words, "on a stable and permanent basis." Under these criteria and in light of the findings from this study, a branch-campus approach stands as the best of the four options considered.
Staff Recommendation to the Committee of the Whole
Staff recommends that the Board: