Saturday, July 10, 2010

Higher ed board backs OSU-COCC growth

On Friday, the state Board of Higher Education, accepted the most benign of the requests from HEAT, the Higher Education Assessment Team representing Central Oregon.

The board will drop the University of Oregon's affiliation with OSU Cascades, and will strengthen ties between OSU Cascades and COCC.

This is the common sense approach to higher education in Bend. Push to see the evolution of the COCC campus on Bend's west side, where real estate is at a premium in our town, to a full-scale four-year institution. The setting, while not conducive to an ADA convention because it sits on the west side of Awbrey Butte, is one of the most picturesque in the entire state or even the Northwest.

The board said it will look at HEAT's request that the state establish a stand-alone four-year university in Central Oregon within the nest 20-30 years at an unknown location.

It will do well to reject any such notion if the state is on the hook for what could $500 million or more.

What could help develop COCC into a four-year college is what the state board backed on Friday. It voted to support greater independence of the Oregon University System from the oversight and ever-tightening purse strings from the state. Now, the Legislature must back those plans which will allow various schools to pursue greater economic autonomy and, perhaps, more outside funding.

For example, if COCC can convince a corporate entity, such as the now-Bend-based Les Schwab Tires, which is a huge backer of developments in Central Oregon, to underwrite its change to a four-year college, we could have LSU-OSU Cascades. Wouldn't that turn heads.

Anyway, like most states that are dis-investing in higher education, Oregon needs to change its financial structure so that schools can follow the money.

Of course, this will lead to haves and have nots, but that's the way of the world. Until some deep-pocketed entity decides that Bend should have a four-year university, we won't have one.

It's as simple as that.

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