Enrollment at OSU-Cascades increases despite COVID-19 concerns

The Tykeson Hall on the OSU Cascades campus. Tykeson Hall is named in honor of the Tykeson family of Bend, Ore. and Eugene, Ore. for their philanthropy and leadership support. It was opened in fall 2016, and contains the majority of classrooms on campus. By Oregon State University – Tykeson Hall, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Luke Reynolds, OSU-Cascades Beat Reporter

Correction: The photo caption has been clarified to state that Tykeson Hall is named in honor of the Tykeson family of Bend, Ore. and Eugene, Ore., not after Don Tykeson. This article also originally stated that OSU-Cascades’ increase was in line with other 4 year institutions. However, the enrollment increase of 27% for first-year students and 16% for transfer students exceeds the NSRC increase of 0.2%. These corrections have been made.



As COVID-19 continues to cause difficulties for students and faculty across the Oregon State University campuses, student enrollment at OSU-Cascades increased in the fall 2020 term.


“We always take our enrollment snapshot about four weeks into the term, right at the drop deadline. This fall, we had a 4.8% overall increase in students. When we are just looking at just new students, we had a 27% increase in first year students and a 16% increase in transfers if you are comparing to last year,” said Brittany Preston, the director of admissions and recruitment at OSU-Cascades.


Preston feels there are a few factors that have led to the increase in enrollment during the past term. 


“I think it’s a combination of things. I think the reputation and word is getting out about OSU-Cascades, there is definitely an increase in interest. We also saw an increase with local Central Oregon students staying nearby with the pandemic which obviously created a lot of headaches and cancelled a lot of plans for folks,” Preston said.


Summer term also seemed to help create a sense of community at OSU-Cascades, with events hosted by the student life team as well as housing where, “students could connect early and feel like they were a part of OSU-Cascades,” Preston said.


OSU-Cascades’ increase in incoming enrollment exceeds other 4 year public institutions. According to a study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, student enrollment in public 4 year institutions nationwide has increased 0.2% for fall term, compared to the -1.2% decrease in the fall of 2019.


When comparing all postsecondary institutions across the country, fall enrollment had dropped nearly twice as much from 2019, decreasing from -1.3% to -2.5%.


While OSU-Cascades staff appreciate the increase in enrollment, there was no guarantee that the situation would turn out this way.


“Because the uncertainty caused by the pandemic was layered on top of our existing need to increase awareness as a young campus, our admissions and marketing teams worked very hard to get timely, relevant and compelling information into prospective students and their families hands – or inboxes,” said Christine Coffin, the director of communications and content strategy at OSU-Cascades.


“We certainly hoped for a strong fall enrollment, but there was no guarantee given the circumstances. Mostly, we’re very proud of our teams’ efforts, a little relieved — and excited for our newest students,” Coffin said.


Compared to previous years, the admissions process at OSU-Cascades went a little differently the past term.


“We did have a few changes this year, some of which were planned before the pandemic hit. For example, OSU and OSU-Cascades became test-optional this year, which ended up helping to relieve some stress with students who were applying that were unable to schedule an SAT/ACT test beforehand,” said Emily Ford, the admissions advisor at OSU-Cascades.


Ford’s position at OSU-Cascades primarily focuses on advising incoming students with one on one opportunities and through various events. She also manages student TOUR ambassadors, who help with recruitment activities. 


As an alumni at OSU-Cascades, Ford feels she is able to, tie in my own college experience at Cascades to help my students to find the right fit.” Her largest role this year was to, “provide [students] with transparent, helpful information and resources for starting college during this time.”


For the upcoming terms, Ford feels that it is important to keep around some in person classes, “because completely online school does not work for every student.” 


“Our campus community is really tight-knit, and if our Cascades community continues to lean into each other during these tough times, I think it will really help students to feel supported and empowered to continue their educational journey as a Bend Beav,” Ford said.

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