EOU students

Eastern Oregon University students stroll through the campus in La Grande in November 2019. Students will take online classes for the remainder of the school year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Eastern Oregon University’s enrollment is on an upward trajectory. Fourth-week figures indicate that enrollment is up at EOU for at least the second year in a row. Eastern now has a total of 3,067 students, 3% more than a year ago.

“I see our numbers as very positive,” said Tim Seydel, EOU’s vice president for university advancement. 

This fall’s overall increase reflects a rise in online enrollment. The online undergraduate student head count has jumped 7% from a year ago, and online student credit hours have increased 4.5%. Eastern now has 1,246 undergraduate students studying off campus, according to an EOU news release.

Eastern’s online enrollment has also been bolstered by the addition of an online recruiter, according to Executive Director of Regional Outreach and Innovation David Vande Pol.

“Having a dedicated online recruiter responding to inquiries and guiding them through the enrollment process has been a game changer,” Vande Pol said in the release.

EOU on-campus enrollment is not as bright. The number of credit hours being taken by on-campus students and the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) students on campus is down slightly. The FTE number is determined by taking the total number of credit hours on-campus students are taking and then dividing them by the number of on-campus students. 

Eastern’s fourth-week enrollment figures are providing encouraging news regarding student retention rates, which is the percent of students who enroll for a second year. Eastern’s overall retention rate is 72%, EOU’s highest rate since 2016. The retention rate for on campus students was the highest at 77%. 

 Dixie Lund, a member of Eastern’s board of trustees and a former EOU president, credits the strong retention rate to efforts of faculty and staff to help students address their academic, emotional and economic needs.

She also praises the EOU Foundation and its Crisis Fund, which is used to help students who have hit barriers that could sideline them. The fund is used to help students such as those who suddenly can’t afford rent because a roommate moved or have experienced a major automobile breakdown or other financial issues.

Lund said Eastern’s retention rate is also boosted by its TRIO program, which provides support for students who tend to be underprepared for college. These include students who are from lower-income families or are the first in their families to attend college. 

Lund said that Mike Williams, the head of Eastern’s TRIO program for the past five to six years, is doing an exceptional job of running it. She noted that his understanding of it is enhanced by the fact that he was in a TRIO program while attending college.

“He is perfect for the job,” she said.

Lund is impressed with the growth of Eastern’s online program because so many universities now have online programs, creating a very competitive environment across the nation.

Lund, who served as dean of Eastern’s distance education program in the 1990s, added that she hopes Eastern’s on-campus enrollment can grow in the future. She said this is critical because on-campus programs add to the vitality of the entire campus and community. 

David Nelson, chair of Eastern’s board of trustees, said there are a number of reasons to believe that EOU’s enrollment will continue its promising growth trend. One is the addition of baseball and women’s lacrosse, which was announced on Oct. 12. Eastern will field teams in both sports beginning in the spring of 2021. 

It is anticipated that the addition of both sports will boost Eastern’s 2020-21 enrollment by 45 students, Seydel said.

Nelson said the work of EOU President Tom Insko is another reason the school’s enrollment may continue to improve. He said that Insko has an excellent reputation in the region and across the state and provides Eastern with stability. Insko, who grew up in Elgin and is an EOU graduate, is in his fifth year as Eastern’s president. 

Nelson also feels good about the vast market of potential online students Eastern has the ability to serve. He explained there are about 40 million people in the United States who have attended college but do not have a degree. Many are looking for a school where they can complete their degree requirements, he said.

Nelson, a former state legislator who lives in Pendleton, said he believes Eastern may be on its way to reaching a goal Insko set about three years ago — to have 5,000 full-time equivalent students online and 2,500 FTE students on campus by 2029.

General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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