The beginning of OUE
In 1956, a college education was an unattainable dream for most people who lived in or around Belmont County.
Attending a college or university at that time was an expensive prospect that required area students to live on a campus far away from home while completing their studies. Most local families could not afford the cost of tuition and housing, and some could not afford for a family member to leave home and focus on an education rather than being employed.
All of that changed 60 years ago in 1957, when Ohio University offered its first classes at a new branch campus based at Martins Ferry High School. Opened primarily to accommodate World War II veterans who were using the G.I. Bill to fund their college educations, the new site in Belmont County grew and expanded over the course of the next decade until it was welcoming students to a new building on its own campus about 4 miles west of St. Clairsville.
That campus, now known as Ohio University Eastern, still welcomes students today, providing opportunities for new high school graduates, displaced workers and other older adults. Students at OUE can complete any one of 13 bachelor’s degrees or two associate degrees in areas such as early or middle childhood education, history, health services administration, social work or sports and lifestyles studies without ever attending another campus or institution. Folks who wish to major in other fields can begin their studies at OUE and then transfer to the main campus at Athens to finish any one of 250 different degree options now offered there.
In addition to serving veterans of WWII and the subsequent conflicts in Korea. Vietnam and the Middle East, OUE has educated thousands of people during its six decades in our region. Individuals who have benefited from its presence range from stay-at-home-moms, laid-off coal miners and retirees who wanted to chart a new path for their lives to teenagers who were just beginning to explore what they might like to do for their careers.
It is sobering to consider how many local residents would never have had the chance to obtain a college education if OUE were not there.
Congratulations to OUE for celebrating its 60th anniversary on Saturday. We look forward to OUE continuing to serve as a valuable community resource for many more decades to come.