November 07, 2001 11:00 pm

By The Observer

Eastern Oregon Universitys enrollment continues to spiral upward.

For the third year in a row Easterns enrollment has jumped at least 6 percent.

Easterns fourth-week fall term enrollment is up 6.97 percent from a year ago, the third-highest percentage in the Oregon University System. EOUs ranking is based on a head count of 2,978 students, which is 173 more than this time last year.

Easterns enrollment growth comes on the heels of jumps of 6.63 in 2000 and 6.1 percent the year before.

Eastern has 672 freshmen, a jump of 65 from a year ago. The total includes about 400 freshmen who are just out of high school. Some freshmen may have been out of school for a while before entering college.

EOUs number of distance education students is up at least 25 percent. EOU has at least 1,500 degree-seeking students taking classes away from the La Grande campus.

The distance-learning students take EOU classes via computer conferencing, online, at community colleges and at weekend colleges throughout the state. This is the third year in a row that Easterns number of distance-learning students has jumped between 25 and 30 percent.

Easterns strong enrollment picture is also boosted by a retention rate of 65 percent.

Easterns enrollment increase would be even higher had it not been for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. About 40 international students who had planned to attend EOU decided not to enroll because of travel concerns. Many have indicated that they will enroll winter term, said EOU President Phil Creighton.

EOU now has 88 international students.