OSU continues to grow student population and diversity

Students eat, study and gather together in the Memorial Union lounge on the OSU Corvallis, Ore. campus on Oct. 8. With higher enrollment numbers among the general student population as well as students of color, study spots such as the MU are often crowded.

Riley LeCocq, News Contributor

Oregon State University’s student population has reached record high numbers entering the new school year in both the size and diversity of students attending. 

The unofficial count of students across all three campuses of the universityCorvallis, Cascades, and Ecampushas grown 2.15% up from last year, raising the total number of currently enrolled students to 33,513. This is a 5.75 % jump up from 2018, the most normal year of enrollment on record prior to any pandemic influence. 

While the reason for this sharp influx is never certain, Jon Boeckenstedt, the vice provost for enrollment management, suspects OSU’s handling of the pandemic is part of what has drawn students in this year.

We allowed students to stay [in the residence halls] because we knew some had no place else to go; we extended add/drop deadlines for students at the start of the pandemic to allow students to be sure about classes they were taking remotely; and we were the first university in the nation to extend our deadline for freshman decisions until June 1, which was later changed to Sept. 1,” Boeckenstedt said in an email.

Boeckenstedt said students are finding themselves more inclined to attend well-established and well-known institutions, which OSU often finds itself among.  

This increase comes from both traditional freshman and transfer undergraduate students. The university also saw its biggest increase in diversity across all campuses. 

“We see more students coming from outside of Oregon this fall, and we see more students of color than ever in the incoming classes. [Excluding 2020, the increase] among Ecampus students is still dramatic,” Boeckenstedt said. 

OSU plans to continue supporting all students through new programs, one of which is the Bridge to Success Program. The program aims to make tuition more affordable, especially for incoming first-generation students. 

Another campus development that arose from the needs and wants of students is the addition of a new space for Black and indigenous students: the Dr. Larry Griggs Center for Black and Indigenous Student Success. 

This new center, which is still under construction in the main level of the Memorial Union on the Corvallis, Ore. campus, is designed by Ecampus to specifically support remote students and OSU’s cultural resource centers while helping students who have historically had less support in higher education. 

Interim Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Scott Vignos credits the creation of the center and other diversity-uplifting initiatives on campus to the demand from the community and OSU’s commitment to advance inclusive excellence. 

OSU has not only seen an expansion in the student body, student diversity and support systems for all students, but also in its list of awards from INSIGHT Into Diversity Magazine. The magazine has awarded OSU the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award for the fourth consecutive time. 

The award is given to 100 universities nationwide with OSU being only one of three in the Pacific Northwest region to receive it, the others being the University of Oregon and Central Washington University. 

For students, this especially means that we continue to make strides to adapt the university to better serve students of all backgrounds, and particularly those students for whom higher education has not always been accessible and welcoming,” Vignos said. 

Even as the student body grows, Vignos does not foresee any reason for inclusion efforts to slow down. If anything, the increased student population will be an asset to expanding diversity and inclusion conversations, events and initiatives on campus. 

“Partners across the university will continue working to ensure the university is a place where all students, faculty, learners, volunteers and partners feel like they belong and can succeed,” Vignos said. 

Even with the HEED Award and progress in diversity initiatives as population increases, OSU acknowledges the predominantly white population of its students and the state as a whole. 

“Receiving the HEED Award means we’ve made great progress, and we know there’s more to do,” Vignos said. “We’re continuing to make progress to advance our goals to embed equity in everything we do.”