Oregon State University President Ed Ray talks student success

OSU President Ed Ray sits in the Orange Media Network Newsroom and discusses the 2016 State of the University Address.

Riley Youngman News Editor

In annual “State of the University Address” Ray discusses plans for future, initiatives

Speaking in front of over 700 students, business professionals,  alumni and community members last Friday in Portland, Oregon State University President Ed Ray gave his annual “State of the University Address.”

Student success was at the forefront of Ray’s vision for the future of OSU, and several initiatives and goals for the next four years were carefully laid out and explained.  Ray also provided an update on all that OSU had accomplished in the last year.

“Today’s address is also a call to action,” Ray said beginning his speech.  

Ray has pledged that by 2020, Oregon State University will raise its first-year retention rate for all students from the current 83.8 percent to 90 percent.  In addition to this, Ray has also stated that the university is aiming for the six-year graduation rate to increase from the now 63.1 percent to 70 percent for all students.

Ray also touched on the subject of student debt, saying that this is a burden that needs to be reformed.

According to Ray, OSU has downloaded 11 years of academic data, for 80,000 students, and will perform predictive analytics, using the data to identify paths that succeed and paths that fail to get a sense of what has and what has not worked for students.  This information will then be used to provide students with the most efficient paths possible through OSU, leading to the least amount of debt.

“The better the information you have, the better choices you are going to make, the faster you are going to get done, the better your education, the less debt you’ll have,” Ray said.

The average Oregon resident undergraduate has an unmet annual need at OSU of $7,256, leading to debt.

Ray also recapped the numerous successes that OSU has had in the last year.  According to the university, enrollment online, at the OSU Cascades Campus and at the Corvallis campus exceeded 30,000 for the second year in a row.

In the last year, OSU faculty has conducted $309 million in research, which equates to almost double the combined total of Oregon’s six other public universities.

According to Ray, last fall, more than 41 percent of the entering freshman class has a high school GPA of 3.75 or greater.  Ray hopes that as years go on, OSU will become the top school of choice for Oregon’s most accomplished students.

In 2015, the OSU Foundation raised $130.8 million in donor gifts to the university, the largest fundraising year in history Ray said.  

Ray also talked about OSU’s Marine Studies Initiative, including plans to build a new “world-class” research and academic building in Newport.  A $20 million anonymous donation has been made towards the project, with $24.8 million more being provided by the Legislature through state bonds.

According to Ray, by 2025 up to 500 students will be in Newport engaged in marine studies, with 700 more in Corvallis doing the same.

“This will provide $71 million in vital annual economic stimulus to coastal communities whose economies have struggled for many decades,” Ray said. “Over the next decade, the statewide cumulative economic impact of this initiative will exceed $280.”

Oregon State University’s College of Forestry will open the $60-70 million Oregon Forest Science Complex in Corvallis to accelerate the

Ray announced that OSU and 10 other major public research universities have come together to create the “University Innovation Alliance” that will aim to increase undergraduate enrollment for Pell-eligible students, raise retention and graduation rates for all students and eliminate achievement gaps for low-income students, students of color and first-generation students.  

Members of the alliance include Arizona State University, Michigan State University, The University of Texas at Austin, University of Kansas, Purdue University and Ohio State University, as well as others.

“I am committed to doing what’s right to address the inequality in higher education and to better ensure the success of all people now… and in the future,” Ray said, speaking on diversity and inclusion.

Ray called for improvement in how OSU serves students of diverse backgrounds.

Speaking on graduate students, Ray noted that those students with the highest amount of debt are often seeking graduate and doctoral degrees, then called the achievement gap in this demographic shameful.

“Higher education in America is deepening the divide between the haves and have nots, and this chasm is tearing at the fabric of society and undermining our democracy,” Ray said.

Ray affirmed that he is 100 percent committed to student success, and that he will not walk away from his job without one more effort to significantly – and successfully – increase student success.

“We will provide every member of our university community a culture of equity, inclusion and social justice … within which everyone can flourish,” Ray said. “And I mean everyone.”