After multiple failed attempts to obtain state funding for a fifth campus building, Oregon State University-Cascades is close to achieving that goal thanks to Gov. Kate Brown’s proposed state budget.
Brown’s $25.6 billion proposed plan, unveiled Tuesday, includes allocating $13.8 million to OSU-Cascades to build a Student Success Center building. But before construction crews start, the Legislature must approve that funding in its 2021 session.
University leaders and local politicians said they were thrilled by Brown’s push for capital funding at OSU-Cascades. They said the building — which will house various nonacademic student services and provide a hangout and study space for students — is essential.
“I’m very, very pleased,” Becky Johnson, vice president of OSU-Cascades, said Tuesday. “We’re hopeful the Legislature will support (Brown’s) decision.”
There is already some construction going on at the campus: For the past year, construction crews have been building Edward J. Ray Hall — a second academic building ready to welcome faculty and students in the summer of 2021.
The Student Success Center will be located directly north of Edward J. Ray Hall, Johnson said. She couldn’t give a specific date when construction would begin. But if the funding is approved, groundbreaking might start in the fall of 2021, Johnson said.
Various programs and services would be housed in the Student Success Center, including academic advising, mental health counseling, veterans services, student clubs and more, Johnson said.
One portion of the building would be dedicated to a multicultural center, something OSU-Cascades students have clamored for, she said. More than 18% of OSU-Cascades students this fall are people of color.
The proposed building’s total price tag is $18.8 million, of which $5 million will be covered by student fees. Three years ago, OSU-Cascades students voted to increase those fees to help pay for the building, Johnson said.
“The students that voted to fund this three years ago are never going to see this building, and the students currently paying into this probably aren’t going to benefit from it either,” she said. “But they understand how important this is for future students, and they wanted to make things right.”
Jade Warner, OSU-Cascades student body president, said despite not ever getting to use the building as a student herself — she’s a senior this year — she’s grateful that future OSU-Cascades students will benefit.
The three-building campus is too cramped for Oregon’s fastest-growing public university, and student-dedicated, non-classroom/dormitory space is needed, Warner told The Bulletin.
“As we continue to grow, we grow into spaces originally planned for other things,” she said Wednesday. “For example, as a student, you witness the dining hall becoming our only gathering or study space on campus, because the study rooms are always full.”
Jane Reynolds, OSU-Cascades’ executive director of student success, told The Bulletin Wednesday that students in a 2018 OSU-Cascades student survey — particularly those who didn’t live in the dorms — said they desired more campus space for studying and hanging out with friends.
This is not the first time OSU-Cascades has pushed for state funding for the proposed Student Success Center. In 2018, the university asked for $12 million in funding for the building, yet the project wasn’t included in Brown’s proposed 2019-21 budget that fall. And nearly $13 million in expected state funding for the building disappeared at the last minute this year after the Republican walkout and pandemic.
Despite the governor’s push Tuesday for OSU-Cascades capital funding, the Legislature must approve it first. And in 2017, just a year after OSU-Cascades opened, House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said state officials weren’t sure about building a full university campus “out there” in Bend.
Tim Knopp, Bend’s Republican state senator, is fully in support of funding a Student Success Center at OSU-Cascades, he said Wednesday. He was disappointed in the project’s setbacks over the past couple years, and believes the center would increase employment in the area and help local students. “I think it’s one of the bright spots in the (governor’s) budget for Central Oregon,” Knopp told The Bulletin. “I hope we have good bipartisan support for this.”
The other state legislator who will represent Bend in 2021, newly elected Democrat Jason Kropf, was unavailable for comment Wednesday.
Article was originally published in The Bend Bulletin.