EOU… The next exodus?

An empty EOU campus. Just 27% of students stay at EOU for all four years. Picture by Kenzie Whaley.

Why are so many students leaving Eastern Oregon University by the dozens? Why is the majority of the student population freshman undergraduates? Why have only 27% of students stuck it out long enough to stay until graduation?  

Eastern Oregon University has one of the highest enrollment rates of rural universities in its area, boasting almost 3,000 students. Although it has great success in luring students in with its promises of small classes, the best educators, and enticing sports scholarship opportunities, is it really all that it’s made out to be?

Students come to Eastern Oregon University to get a rural college experience, and 64% of students come to the university because they are local. Close to home, they are able to see family and friends on weekends, have loved ones attend sporting events, and remain involved within their hometown communities. But is La Grande offering enough to keep them here for 4 years? The answer is no. 

Picture by: Kenzie Whaley. 

With dozens of first-year students opting to drop out or transfer to another university, EOU’s main campus might feel more empty for the next academic year. Picture by Kenzie Whaley. 

While EOU may continue to encourage students to engage in different activities around campus, many of these activities are not sponsored by the school. EOU prides itself on its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. While these are all good things, sometimes the administration is blind to the fact that even though they hold these values in high regard, they fail to see students struggling to thrive here or have the college experience they were promised. 

I interviewed over 40 freshmen who were planning on either dropping out or transferring to a new school for the next academic year. This is just about 2% of the student population. It is concerning that this many freshmen are already considering other options over EOU. Of that number, 99% of them were women, and of that number, 60% of them were education majors.

 Eastern Oregon University is known for its successful education program, but these last few years have been an especially trying time for the university. All of these women confided that they were finding the education program to be more than they bargained for and they are considering other alternatives. The Oregon Teacher Pathways program has proven to be more of a commitment than originally advertised. 

Another concern is that there is not enough to do here in La Grande. Many complaints have been made that even though there might be activities here for college students, the advertisement of such events is lacking. There is hardly any awareness of activities in the area that students can do for little to no cost. 

College is expensive, and adding extra costs to do fun things to make the college experience what it should be is simply unfair. In order to give students the exciting college experience, awareness and community participation for these activities need to be made known. Along with limited opportunities for extracurriculars, most students are having a hard time finding jobs that will be understanding that they are college students, and work with their schedules accordingly.  

While we could use the excuse that COVID-19 is to blame, which is partly true, others still need to be held accountable. The administration has begun to illegally defund school clubs. 

For years, the voices of students have been silenced. The music and theater departments are already under attack and are being stripped of their funds, with several school clubs following. 

Someone must be held accountable for this exodus and steadily declining satisfaction rate of EOU.

Ideally, with the implementation of a new presidential administration, there will be some real change in numbers and a higher graduation rate. Hopefully, this administration will be active in addressing the wants and needs of students, giving them all the resources to a truly successful and enjoyable college experience. 

“I just feel like I am not reaching my full potential here at EOU,” freshman Halle Omstead said.

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