Oregon State Enrollment Up amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

Fall enrollment in 2020 for Oregon State University has reached record levels, according to a OSU Newsroom article published Tuesday, Nov. 10. However, the number of students enrolled on site at the Corvallis campus has decreased.   

These changes, the OSU Newsroom article says, are driven by a host of different factors, including an increase in enrollment by students of color, as well as increases seen in the online Ecampus Program and OSU Cascades located in Bend.   

OSU keeps its title of the largest university in the state for the seventh year in a row with 33,359 students enrolled as of this fall. This is a 1.8% increase, consisting of 585 students over 2019 numbers. Numbers of transfer students from community and four-year colleges and universities were up, and enrollment of veterans increased by 10.7%.   

Veterans now make up 4.3% of the entire student body. According to the newsroom article, this year’s enrollment includes 8,915 students of color, which is a record of more than 27% of OSU’s total enrollment.   

Increases in enrollment at OSU overall are contrary to the data be seen at other universities across the country. Newsroom cited a report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center stating a decrease of 3% total in postsecondary enrollment.   

While this may be true for other universities, OSU freshman enrollment increased by around 4% over last year, and among freshman, Ecampus enrollment skyrocketed by over 120%. However, freshman enrollment on campus at OSU only increased by 1%.   

Oregon residents continue to choose Oregon state with 71.8% of degree-seeking students on the Corvallis campus coming from within the state. 86.5% of enrollment at the OSU-Cascades Campus are residents.   

“OSU is Oregon’s statewide university,” OSU President F. King Alexander said. “We are committed to provide access to a high-quality college education for all Oregonians at our campuses in Corvallis and in Bend, centers in Newport and Portland, and where they live and want to learn through online education and degrees offered through Ecampus.”  

It’s not all increased enrollment. Currently, enrollment at the Corvallis campus is down from 24,203 students in 2019 to 23,266. Alexander believes this is due to fewer out-of-state students.   

“The decline in Corvallis enrollment follows national trends this fall of fewer out-of-state students and international students declining to travel from their home communities due to the pandemic and other concerns, including travel restrictions,” he told Newsroom.   

Megan Bauer, a freshman from Washington, however, was happy to be on campus. “When I left for college, everyone was telling me, ‘See you in two weeks!’” She told Newsroom. “And now here we are in November, almost done with the term. I think OSU is doing really well. I’m pleasantly surprised.”   

Bauer also told the OSU Newsroom that the university encouraged community building between incoming freshman over the summer through Zoom events and since arriving on campus, the university has helped with quarantine blues by sending students projects such as mini-pumpkins, as well as self-care kits.   

In short, while OSU has seen an overall increase in enrollment, the data shows that students are preferring Ecampus enrollment to attending on campus. For some, the pandemic has created fear of being exposed to large groups, in settings such as a traditional classroom, or even dorm living. It will be interesting to see whether enrollment levels change dramatically for the winter term as the country progresses through COVID-19 challenges.   

By Kyra Young