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Eastern Oregon University Board of Trustees Discusses Strategic Goals, Financial Management, and Affordability

Nov. 20, 2023

Eastern Oregon University Board of Trustees Discusses Strategic Goals, Financial Management, and Affordability

LA GRANDE, Ore. – Eastern Oregon University’s Board of Trustees convened for the fall 2023 meeting on Nov. 15 -16 at the university’s La Grande campus, addressing key issues including enrollment, strategic priorities, financial stability, program updates, and legislative work.

Reflecting on her first 100 days, EOU President Kelly Ryan emphasized a strategic approach focused on student success and unique offerings to attract students. “Our university needs to come together around strategies that will push us forward and show how we are uniquely able and different from other institutions in the ways we serve prospective and current students.” 

Ryan noted positive enrollment trends and announced an overall 4.64 percent increase in student headcount for fall 2023. She also discussed the changes in first-year students, graduate credit hours, and the impact of dual credit programs, as well as the need to invest in growth areas and the potential of hybrid learning models, especially for rural communities.

Ben Cannon, Executive Director of the Higher Education Coordinating Commission addressed the Board, focusing on affordability and equity in higher education. In her budget update, LeeAnn Case, Interim Vice President of Finance and Administration, underscored the need for cost control, improved enrollment, and retention. Trustee, Brad Stephens highlighted the financial challenges with expense increases outpacing tuition hikes, stressing the Board’s role in maintaining fiscal health.

In discussing legislative updates with the Board, Tim Seydel, Vice President for University Advancement, pointed to the significance of a $25 million sustainability fund and priorities for the 2024 session aimed at supporting underserved students. Key areas include food insecurity and investments in student success. 

The first day concluded with a discussion of the role of EOU’s online programs in fulfilling the university’s mission. Regional Outreach and Innovation Directors Tressa Seydel and Danny Cecchini provided the board with an overview of online and onsite programs. A panel of five current online students and alumni joined the meeting and shared how an online education from EOU impacted their lives.  

On the second day of the EOU Board meeting, Dean Peter Geissinger and Assistant Professor Steve Sheehy highlighted the success of the Computer Science and Cybersecurity programs. Sheehy reported a significant positive enrollment trend, with cybersecurity being a key driver. Sheehy attributed success to dual-credit coursework and emphasized the increasing demand for tech literacy in the workforce. 

President Ryan provided an update on EOU’s strategic plan and emphasized work in boosting enrollment and student success. With the approaching 100th anniversary of EOU, the plan includes updates to the development of a comprehensive fundraising campaign. The Board accepted the recommendations. 

Director of Admissions, Genesis Meaderds, presented EOU’s recruitment strategies to the Board, highlighting the success of the Common Application for Admission, and the University’s personalized approach to students, as well as success in Pacific Island Recruitment.

The Board concluded its meeting with updates to the Board’s comprehensive evaluation process and a review of changes made to Board governance structures by the Oregon Legislature.