Not only is it back to school week at public schools in Central Oregon, it's also just a few mere days from the opening of the first four-year university in the region. It's a significant occasion, and one with great economic and cultural impacts for the city of Bend and the surrounding area.
But like many of the pervasive issues that get talked about in the beer halls and on the golf courses, the tough questions around the actual impact of Oregon State University's Cascades campus are also at the fore of many people's minds.
Neighborly concerns university officials have already been grappling with include questions around increases in traffic and road use. Indeed, with an expected 3,000 to 5,000 students living, working and studying in the area around Bend's Century Drive within the next decade, there are bound to be some issues. For the time being though, the university expects to welcome roughly 900 students when it opens later this month.
Nearby citizens are also concerned about maintaining cozy neighborhoods that aren't blighted by college-age partiers—as is the case in some other college towns they've chosen not to live in. Looking at the issue as a whole, it seems there's an overall "fear of the young person" surrounding the growing college student population in our city.
For those who fear the onslaught of the hordes of young people they believe will now be running around Bend, there's a plain fact to look upon: Of the students who will be inaugurating the Cascades campus this fall, a whopping 70 percent of them already live in Central Oregon.
Before there was an option to take upper-level or graduate-level courses here in Bend, the only option for the upwardly-mobile people in our community was to leave our community or to pursue distance coursework. These are not faceless partiers coming in to ruin our mellow good time; they are largely the children and grandchildren of the people who raised them here in this community. Additionally, it was the people in this community who recognized the need for a higher-level university in our area, and it was the people in this community who achieved it.
When it comes to fostering a community culture that is amenable to the majority, OSU-Cascades officials have worked hard to develop programs that are unique to—and which benefit—Central Oregonians. There are courses in hospitality management to accommodate our tourism sector. There are programs in IT and technology that address the shortages in our local workforce.
In short, the university has not blindly set forth on a course to impose its own will. It is an effort made with local people in mind, with a result that will ultimately benefit local people through boosts in our local economy, and through giving young people the opportunity to stay home and still get a university degree.
It's too soon to tell how the college parties and the traffic increases will play out, but for now, we say it's time to (responsibly) celebrate the opening of OSU-Cascades.