One of the first pieces of action in the Collaboration Corvallis project was announced, oddly enough, at a meeting of the Corvallis Economic Development Commission.
On Aug. 15, 2012, Oregon State University President Ed Ray told the commission that beginning in the fall of 2013, freshmen would be required to live on campus.
Ray cited research showing that students who live on campus perform better in school and noted that if more students live on campus, that would reduce congestion in nearby neighborhoods.
And so was born the “first-year experience.”
Roughly 80 percent of OSU freshmen lived on campus in the 2012-13 school year, with university officials predicting that number will reach 90 percent with the group that starts classes Monday.
The program has required some housing adjustments. Finley Hall, which was not fully used a year ago, is back on line and the university has converted some double rooms to triple rooms to meet the demand, said Dan Larson of University Housing and Dining Services.
Larson estimated capacity at about 4,650 students. OSU is expecting a similar number of freshmen in the fall of 2014.
A new residence hall with room for 300 students is under construction in the southwest part of campus, and when it opens in September 2014, the university will convert the triple rooms back to doubles, said Larson.
University officials, however, were adamant that the program extends beyond housing.
“It’s more than just a request to live on campus,” said Steve Clark, OSU vice president for marketing and university relations.
“The first-year experience initiative is a broad-reaching set of actions and enhancements,” said Susie Brubaker-Cole, associate provost for academic success and engagement.
Brubaker-Cole noted three key areas:
• Support for students to facilitate the transition from high school to college.
• Support for students to ensure academic success in individual courses and in programs of study.
• Support for students for campus community integration and involvement through faculty and peer mentoring programs.
Brubaker-Cole said that in recent years OSU’s retention rate for first-year students has been between 81 and 83 percent.
“We aspire to have that number match other top land grant universities at between 85 and 90 percent,” she said.
The university invited fraternities and sororities to participate in the program, but they declined, citing the high costs.