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Nov. 12, 2021 LA GRANDE, Ore. – After 18 months of remote and hybrid meetings, Eastern Oregon University’s Board of Trustees returned to the Dixie Lund Boardroom on Nov. 10 for its first in-person meeting of the 2021 academic year.
The meeting agenda had Trustees reviewing new degree programs, discussing enrollment strategies, learning about several new grants and gifts, and receiving updates on statewide issues.
Fall enrollment met expectations, seeing only a slight downturn overall. Total student headcount is down just 1%, while Student Credit Hours (SCH) saw a decrease of 3.5%. Online enrollments continue to trend upwards while campus EOU President Tom Insko explained that declining community college enrollments have impacted the number of transfer students looking to earn a bachelor’s degree on campus or online at EOU and that uncertainty about the economic future and lingering effects of COVID-19 are contributing to a smaller incoming freshman class.
“Low-income, first-generation and diverse students have lost their systems for connecting to higher education,” Insko said. “The inability to connect with counselors, advocates, and support services at the high school level has led to a lack of transition to colleges and universities.”
Shared priorities for Oregon universities
Trustees welcomed Executive Director of Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) Ben Cannon, who highlighted progress on Oregon’s Student Success Bill (HB 2590), which aims to improve support for underrepresented students. The HECC is providing research on rural students with hopes the data will help influence 2023 legislation.
“From a HECC standpoint this really represents a great opportunity,” Cannon said.
The Board also received an update on the Transfer Bill (HB 233) and the ways it will remove barriers to students who bring credits from prior institutions. EOU has representatives on a newly created state council to develop pathways for transferring credits between universities.
DEIA strategy reshapes staffing
EOU’s 2020 Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access (DEIA) Strategic Plan seeks to improve resources and connection while addressing systemic barriers to success. The university plans to rename and reconfigure the Student Diversity and Inclusion department to wrap around Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, Human Resources and the Diversity Committee. A new director and an assistant director of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging will guide new diversity initiatives alongside two new staff members, a resources advocate and a student support specialist.
“I believe we can champion equity and I do believe we can champion access at our institution,” said committee member and trustee George Mendoza.
Field House gift and university budget
EOU’s new Field House has taken shape over the last several months on the east side of campus. With several design changes and additional institutional and private investment, the project is well underway and expects to be completed in spring 2022. An $800,000 gift to the EOU Foundation from longtime professor Dr. Jean Neely and her sister, Janice, will support the facility, including a new Human Health and Performance classroom, lab and offices.
The university’s financial sustainability remains key to ongoing student success. Trustees unanimously approved the finalized budget for the coming year which continues to see EOU meeting the challenges of shifts in state funding and enrollment while maintaining a positive reserves.
In other Board news, trustees approved two new degree programs, discussed enrollment strategies, learned about several grants to support students, voted to re-elect Board Chair Richard Chaves, received shared governance reports, toured the upgraded Loso Hall performance areas and received a preview performance of the first in-person music event on campus in nearly two years. Full minutes and meeting materials can be found at eou.edu/governance.
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