As I predicted years ago, the only university that would consider filling our higher ed gap in Bend is one with a higher calling.
Well, news reports indicate that Northwest Nazarene University, based in Nampa, Idaho, is considering expanding to either Bend or Redmond.
NNU, though, is a liberal arts college offering legitimate courses along with Christian ministries as a part of its core curriculum. Students must attend chapel three times a week. It is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Of course, they're looking for local "partnerships," meaning they want handouts from local governments and Christian businesses to help set up shop here in the High Desert.
Can't blame them at all for trying. If Facebook can get tax breaks, what could NNU get?
The Bend area is one of the most populous areas in the country without a university within 100 miles. Actually, it's about 130 miles to the University of Oregon in Eugene.
Creating a four-year university in Bend has been a longtime goal of local leaders. Over the past 30 years, there have been panels, committees and consortiums trying to figure out how to expand the higher educational opportunities in Central Oregon.
We now have HEAT, the Higher Ed Assessment Team, and they're not exactly thrilled with attracting a religious university, even though it is Christian, to the area.
Bend created a huge, mixed-use zone on the town's north end with the expressed purpose of attracting a "world-class" research institution. There are good, religious universities offering world-class educations, but NNU doesn't rank with them.
Researching the intricacies of "intelligent design" doesn't exactly qualify as legitimate, or economically beneficial, research.
NNU should find a strong following in Central Oregon with its strong Christian base.
The school would generate some economic benefit, but not the kind envisioned by HEAT or other community leaders.
But, this is what we deserve.
We have leaders here who whine day and night that government should slash spending along with taxes.
Instead of investing in education, we choose to build prisons that won't be used for seven years.
Consequently, Oregon has whittled financial support for higher education to under 10 percent of a state university's budget.
This is what happens when every special interest group, representing petroleum, real estate, construction, tourism and beer, among others, all fight any tax increase that would affect their industry.
Our beer tax, one of the lowest in the country by a wide margin, hasn't been raised in 30 years.
Yes, we do have a thriving craft beer industry in Bend, Eugene and Portland but that has little to do with our low tax on beer. Other states, such as Washington, have even healthier beer industries, but much higher taxes on beer.
And, we'll never have a sales tax in Oregon, because, well, it's Oregon.
But, we should have some decent brew to wash our higher ed sorrows away.
Not at NNU, though. Students there are prohibited from drinking alcohol.