Jay Kenton, EOU interim president, said during a press conference that he believes the program will bring returns at a limited cost to the university.
“This is a good program for our university,” Kenton said. “I know the townspeople love the sports programs here, so this is a good decision.”
Kenton, a self-proclaimed “numbers guy,” said he crunched the numbers on the program and believes it’s a financially sound decision.
“The revenues that come with those incremental students pretty much covered the cost, within about $10,000 a year,” he said. “We have the facilities for the most part. We’ll have to do some work to get a locker room, but we have fields, we have the facilities and so when I looked at it from a dollars and cents point of view, it made a lot of sense.”
The addition of a men’s soccer program comes after the school announced in late April that a continuing decline in state funding and enrollment would force Eastern to make about $4 million in budget cuts, trim programs and make other reductions. Among the proposed changes, was the elimination of about 25 full-time faculty positions and seven administration staff positions, which would be phased in over two years.
Kenton said the revenue from the 26 student athletes on the team will total about $222,000 while the expenditures of the program are estimated at $230,000. Recognizing the gap between those figures, Kenton said he believes the university can handle that expense and the one-time cost to do some upgrades to facilities.
“I actually think it’s a net positive,” he said.
Officials at the press conference noted the new program will allow the university to tap into a demographic that has not historically been a focus for Eastern.
“When you look at the changing landscape and demographics in Eastern Oregon, there’s more realities to be had, from Ontario to Hermiston and beyond,” said Xavier Romano, EOU vice president for student success. “It’s becoming more largely Latino and a more multi-cultural environment.”
Romano said he spoke — in both English and Spanish — to a group of 300 middle school students this spring.
“Those youngsters said, ‘Do you have soccer?’ I said not yet, maybe down the road,” Romano said. “Little did I know that down the road came sooner than even I could imagine.”
For the complete story, see Friday's edition of The Observer.
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