To the Fullest Degree

Bobcats and Beavers share a lot in common. Well, perhaps not in the animal kingdom, but for students of Central Oregon Community College and Oregon State University-Cascades — Bobcats and Beavers, respectively — there’s long been a connection, dating to 2001, when OSU-Cascades sited its original presence in a building at COCC. The students took classes together, they shared a campus, forged a common experience.

When OSU-Cascades officially opened its own campus in 2016, two miles (and five roundabouts) south of COCC, the class commute may have extended a bit, but the entities are now more linked than ever. That’s largely due to the Degree Partnership Program (DPP), an academic path for bachelor’s degree seekers who want to optimize access, affordability and opportunities. Built upon an existing partnership, the more inclusive program — to encompass all of OSU, from Bend to Corvallis — launched in the summer of 2019.

In a recent evening Zoom session, a group of prospective students (and a few parents) logged on to learn more. “The Degree Partnership Program allows students to attain their bachelor’s degree while attending both institu­tions,” Sofia Stranieri, an admissions coordinator at COCC, told the group. “You experience the best of both worlds.” That pertains to all aspects of the college world, she described, from course offerings and class schedules to campus life and connections with faculty.

Brittany Preston, OSU-Cascades’ director of admissions & recruitment, outlined two of the greatest assets of the program: saving money and financial aid. With tuition costing less at COCC, and both institutions offering avenues of financial aid, she explained, the overall investment for students becomes more achievable. “You have access to financial aid at both institutions,” said Preston. “It opens up a door to all possibilities.”

Students apply through OSU-Cascades and simply opt-in for the program. They can register for classes at both places — with COCC having a larger range of classes and class times — or start at COCC and shift to OSU-Cascades for their final two years, which means they pay lower tuition rates early on. Students from COCC currently comprise 57% of enrolled transfer students at OSU-Cascades.

The design is perfect for many, including those already in the workforce who need class times to sync with their existing schedule. This fall term, 197 students signed up for the DPP.

Daniel Leifer is finding the fit just right. With a declared major of energy systems engineering at OSU-Cascades, Leifer is already seeing hints of his future. “I love the engineering involved in sustainability and energy efficiency, but the challenges involved in all fields of engineering are so diverse and consistently novel that I’m sure I’ll feel fulfilled wherever I end up,” he said.

Offering a broad catalog of bachelor’s degree programs, such as computer science, business and psychology — more than 20 in all — OSU-Cascades has added to the incredible depth of higher education on the High Desert. And the list grows: In 2019, the school debuted an Outdoor Products degree, a program that mixes design, engineering and outdoor recreation. Seven of its 19 major-declared students, including Oskar “Oz” Zehren, are presently on the DPP track.

“I’ve been working in the outdoor industry for years and love researching and learning about all the new gear,” said Zehren, an avid snowboarder. “So when I heard about the major, it was kind of like a dream come true.” Gravitating toward the field of product development, Zehren is also making sustainability a special focus. “It helps me save money on classes,” he said of the DPP track — and keeps the emphasis on the outdoors and the education.

Upcoming Degree Partner­ship Program info sessions are on Jan. 13, Feb. 15 and March 1.



Degree Partnership Logos COCC and OSU