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Oregon State enrollment sets another record despite COVID-19 pandemic

A black sign with white lettering surrounded by a brick ledge and blooming flowers reads "Oregon State University"

By Sean Nealon
Nov. 10, 2020

(Editor’s note: This is an excerpted version of a news release published by OSU News and Research Communications. Read the full version on its website.)

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Oregon State University’s fall 2020 enrollment reached a record level, driven by many factors, including increases in students of color and students enrolled in the university’s online Ecampus program and OSU-Cascades in Bend.

With 33,359 students enrolled this fall, up 585 students over last year, a 1.8% increase, OSU is the largest university in the state for the seventh consecutive year.

The university also saw a double-digit increase in transfer students from community colleges and four-year colleges and universities. Enrollment of veterans at OSU increased by 10.7% to 1,387 students – or 4.3% of the student body. Oregon State’s fall enrollment in Corvallis includes 8,915 students of color, an increase of 588 students or 7.1%, over last year. Students of color now make up a record of more than 27% of OSU’s overall enrollment. That figure more than doubles the enrollment of students of color in 2010, when the number was 4,179.

Graduate student enrollment increased 4% in Corvallis and 13.7% at OSU-Cascades. In Corvallis, Oregon residents attending graduate school increased 17.5%.

Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, OSU’s enrollment counters declines in college enrollment in Oregon and nationwide. A report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center estimated an overall 3% decrease in postsecondary enrollment nationally this fall fueled by uncertainties surrounding the pandemic.

Overall, freshmen enrollment within OSU increased over last year by nearly 4% to 3,892 students from 3,747. Among freshmen, Ecampus enrollment increased just over 120%; OSU-Cascades by 22%; and Corvallis by 1%. Nationally, the Clearinghouse Research Center estimated that universities and colleges saw as much as a 16% decreases in the enrollment of new freshman.

“Oregon State University students want to learn, make progress toward their degrees and engage safely in their college education among friends – even in this pandemic,” said OSU President F. King Alexander. “It is clear that they greatly value an Oregon State University education.”

Oregon State continues to be a school of choice among Oregon residents with 13,428 students, or 71.8%, of the Corvallis campus degree-seeking undergraduate enrollment coming from the state. That includes students from all 36 Oregon counties. At OSU-Cascades, 1,189 students, representing 86.5% of the campus enrollment, are Oregon residents.

“OSU is Oregon’s statewide university,” Alexander said. “We are committed to provide access to a high quality college education for all Oregonians at our campuses in Corvallis and in Bend, centers in Newport and Portland, and where they live and want to learn through online education and degrees offered through Ecampus.”

Enrollment at OSU’s Corvallis campus totals 23,266 students. That represents 937 fewer students compared to fall 2019.

“The decline in Corvallis enrollment follows national trends this fall of fewer out-of-state students and international students declining to travel from their home communities due to the pandemic and other concerns, including travel restrictions,” said Alexander.

Megan Bauer, an 18-year-old freshman, didn’t let the pandemic dissuade her from coming to Corvallis from Washington state this fall.

“When I left for college, everyone was telling me, ‘See you in two weeks!’ And now here we are in November, almost done with the term,” she said. “I think OSU is doing really well. I’m pleasantly surprised.”

Much of OSU’s enrollment growth was fueled by its nationally ranked Ecampus program, which has 8,840 students enrolled solely in it, an increase of 1,373 students, or 18.4%, over last year. The growth is due in part to the flexibility of Ecampus classes, especially during the pandemic. Ecampus delivers more than 80 undergraduate and graduate programs.

Nathalie Orozco, who lives in La Habra, Calif., enrolled in the Ecampus fisheries and wildlife sciences bachelor’s program this summer. The 30-year-old, who works full-time in business operations, already has a bachelor’s degree in history from UCLA.

But she has always been passionate about animals, conservation and the environment. That led to a conversation with her roommate while they were quarantining during the pandemic.

“I probably would not have gone back to school if it were not for COVID,” Orozco said. “That’s the silver lining of the pandemic. I have a lot more free time because I can’t do as much. I thought if I am going to have all this time, I might as well make it productive.”

The flexibility of the Ecampus program sold her.

“It made so much sense,” she said. “I’m able to go at my own pace and do work on my own time, which allows me to continue working full time.”

Oregon State’s fall enrollment includes:

  • 2,336 transfer students, an increase of 219, or 10.3%, over last year, enrolling at OSU from community colleges and other colleges.
  • 6,135 undergraduates who are first-generation college students, or 23% of enrollment, a 2.6% increase from a year ago. Meanwhile, 28.3% of OSU-Cascades undergraduates are first-generation college students.
  • 196 more graduate students, a 4% increase from fall 2019.
  • 118 students taking hybrid class offerings at the OSU Portland Center, up from 97 last fall.
  • 78 Oregon State students enrolled at the OSU Agriculture & Natural Resource Program at the Eastern Oregon University campus in La Grande, down from 95 last fall.
  • 2,846 international students, a decrease of 646 students from fall 2019. International students come from more 100 countries.

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About Oregon State University: As one of only two universities in the nation designated as a land, sea, space and sun grant, Oregon State serves Oregon and the world by working on today’s most pressing issues. Our more than 32,000 students come from across the globe, and our programs operate in every Oregon county. Oregon State receives more research funding than all of the state’s comprehensive public universities combined. At our campuses in Corvallis and Bend, marine research center in Newport and award-winning Ecampus, we excel at shaping today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders.

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