OSU Open Campus bridges educational gaps

The OSU Open Campus program offers a “Recipe to Market” class.
The OSU Open Campus program offers a “Recipe to Market” class at Tillamook Bay Community College. (Photo by Lynn Ketchum.)

Program provides more ways for Oregonians to access education

People in Oregon's rural communities don't always have access to the educational opportunities that urbanites do. Add to this the fact that some need training that's tailored to unique jobs specific to their locations. This means that they can have a hard time finding employment, and that businesses in their communities likewise can find it difficult to hire a qualified workforce.

That's why in 2010, OSU launched OSU Open Campus, a statewide community-based education partnership that provides local access to learning in order to address the unique educational needs of Oregon’s communities. The program is fast and flexible. It cuts bureaucratic red tape and aims to provide affordable education. Sometimes that will result in students who progress all the way to a bachelor's degree. Other times, the goals are more immediate.

In its first year, the program reached nearly 1,300 learners in Tillamook, Crook and Jefferson counties through courses, presentations, seminars and trainings. OSU Open Campus has since expanded to Klamath, Coos, Hood River and Wasco counties. The number of learners has more than doubled since its inception.

One success has been in Jefferson County, where a small business owner faced closure due to a lack of qualified welders in the area. OSU Open Campus coordinated a plan, beginning with a local high school offering use of an unused welding lab for an eight-week course. Central Oregon Community College provided an instructor, and a local charity provided funds for equipment and gear. The course ultimately had 17 participants, including eight high school students and nine unemployed or under-employed adults. As a result, all the adults now have good-paying jobs as welders, two small businesses were saved, and one participant finished his GED and is enrolled at Central Oregon Community College.

This program builds on the foundation of the OSU Extension Service, which brings the educational resources of the university to communities. OSU Open Campus has a growing capacity for distance education, face-to-face courses, professional certifications, workforce enhancement opportunities and business development. Partners include Oregon’s community colleges, regional economic development groups, the K-12 education systems, businesses and local government.

In 2014, the program was recognized as one of four national winners of the Outreach Scholarship W.K. Kellogg Foundation Engagement Award.

Source: Jeff Sherman, OSU Open Campus

Share this