Oregon University System

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OUS History

Quality educational opportunity has been a priority for Oregonians even before Congress granted statehood. In 1856, the roots of Oregon public higher education were established when the Territorial Legislature acknowledged Monmouth College (later to become Western Oregon University) as the state's first chartered campus. A short three years later, the Legislature used federal support from the Morrill Act to establish the Agricultural College of Oregon (now Oregon State University) as the first state-supported institution of higher education.

Public higher education rapidly grew with the founding of the University of Oregon in 1876, the U of O Medical School (now the Oregon Health & Science University) in 1887, and the formal establishment of three state normal schools (Western Oregon University, Southern Oregon University, and Eastern Oregon University) in 1882.

As the state and its network of public universities grew in stature and complexity in the early 1900s, Oregonians developed a new approach to public higher education that would become a national model. On March 1, 1929, the Legislature established the Oregon State Board of Higher Education to provide oversight to the established schools and to eliminate unnecessary duplication. It took nearly two years for the Board to study curricula and reorganize a unified structure of higher education in Oregon. The task was made even more difficult when the Great Depression brought about postponed building maintenance, salary reductions and layoffs for faculty and staff. But in 1931, the Board hired the system's first chancellor and effectively began to administer the Legislature's vision for a unified Oregon State System of Higher Education.

In the years following World War II, the demand for access to public higher education in Oregon grew rapidly as returning veterans and in-migration boosted the state's population and added to its economic growth. In 1946, two additional public institutions -- the Vanport Extension Center in Portland and the Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls -- were created to accommodate post-war students. In 1955, the growth of the Vanport Center led to the establishment of Portland State University, and in 1959 the governance of the Oregon Institute of Technology was transferred to the higher education system.

Today, the Oregon University System's seven diverse and quality-focused institutions - Eastern Oregon University, Oregon Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, Portland State University, Southern Oregon University, University of Oregon, and Western Oregon University, and one branch campus, OSU-Cascades - provide higher education opportunities to all Oregonians who in turn enrich the economic and cultural base in the state.

Currently, OUS enrolls over 100,000 students and awards more than 20,000 degrees annually. Program offerings represent hundreds of academic disciplines, encompassing one of the nation's most comprehensive ranges of scholarship, service and research excellence. (See the OUS Fact Book for more details.)

Among the full-time ranked instructional faculty of almost 2,900 are world-class artisans, scholars, scientists and teachers, many who have come to Oregon, like thousands of others, to fulfill the promise of a better way of life for this and future generations.

Oregon higher education has become a national model of innovation and leadership. The Oregon University System's performance-based productivity model, shaped by the State Board of Higher Education in 1997, continues to be nationally recognized for transforming higher education and making it more accessible and accountable to Oregon citizens.

Recent higher education reforms enacted in 2011 have changed OUS from a state agency to a public university system, providing additional flexibility for the System to be able to serve students more effectively while better managing costs and revenues. The State of Oregon's 40-40-20 goal has coalesced all of the education sectors in Oregon around a bold education attainment goal: by 2025 40% of Oregonians will have a bachelor's or advanced degree, 40% will have an associate's degree or meaningful certificate, and 100% of high school students will graduate with a diploma. The State Board of Higher Education and the OUS are working hard with the state's community colleges and K-12 to erase the boundaries between the education sectors and find better ways to ensure student success across the education spectrum. For more information on the 40-40-20 goal see http://www.ous.edu/partner/404020.

Click here for the chronological history of OUS (PDF file)