Alyssa Sutton

Eastern Oregon University is just a signature away from being designated as “Oregon’s Rural University.”

On Tuesday, the Oregon State Senate passed House Bill 4153 designating EOU as Oregon’s rural university. HB 4153 passed the Oregon House and Senate unanimously and is currently waiting on Gov. Kate Brown’s signature.

“Eastern Oregon University has been serving rural Oregon since its founding in 1929,” Senator Bill Hansell (R-Athena) said in a press release. “Giving EOU this official designation will allow the university to appeal to potential students across the nation and leverage federal funds.”

The designation is part of the university’s strategic plan to increase enrollment across platforms, including an aspiration to enroll 5,000 online students annually by 2029, and to be recognized as a leader in promoting “rural community prosperity and resilience.” The designation is one of the key performance indicators that the university is seeking in support of its goal to “serve as the educational, economic, and cultural engine for rural places” and to “be recognized as a leader in promoting rural community prosperity and resilience.”

“This designation essentially carves out our niche in the state,” Tim Seydel, EOU’s vice president for university advancement, told The Observer.

According to the bill, Eastern Oregon University serves as a resource for rural communities and was the first university in the state to develop “distance duration programs” for students who have difficulty leaving their current geographical locations to attend school.

The designation would allow Eastern to leverage additional federal education dollars and apply for grants that it currently isn’t eligible for. This will be beneficial as the university serves the highest percentage of students eligible to receive the Federal Pell Grant in the state.

“(The designation) will provide more external funding opportunities,” Seydel said.

See complete story in Friday's Observer