Of the Baker City Herald

Cindy Waldo chose Eastern Oregon University in La Grande for convenience, even though she lived in John Day.

Waldo began taking EOU classes at a distance in 1998, after moving to Grant County from Eugene.

andquot;It allowed us to relocate to John Day and still work on my bachelor's,andquot; said Waldo, now a member of the Baker County College Advisory Board for EOU and Blue Mountain Community College.

In the middle of her studies, she moved to Baker City.

andquot;My classes went with me wherever I went,andquot; she said.

Eastern Oregon University has had a regional center for distance education in Baker City since 1979.

andquot;We're one of the oldest in the nation,andquot; said Liz Burton, director of the EOU-Baker regional center.

The program has evolved during the last 24 years.

andquot;Originally we offered one distance degree general studies,andquot; Burton said.

Now students can choose from six majors: liberal studies with 14 choices for minors; physical education and health; politics, philosophy and economics; business economics; business administration; and fire services administration.

Through several partnerships with other colleges, the program also offers a degree in nursing and a master's in education.

EOU offers more than 400 distance courses, in subjects ranging from organic chemistry to The Sixties to tai chi.

Distance courses follow the academic school year observed on the EOU campus, and tuition is the same: $114 per credit.

There are 110 students enrolled through Baker's EOU center, with an age range from 19 to 60.

Sixty percent are from Baker County, and the other students are scattered throughout the United States, Burton said.

andquot;We have such a broad range of students,andquot; she said.

And she knows this firsthand as director of the regional center, Burton works with distance students to devise a course plan for the degree they want to pursue.

The decision to choose distance ed varies from student to student.

andquot;Most of the time they already have a full life. They just realize they need a different career or different options. If you're place bound or time bound, you could access this program,andquot; Burton said.

Most classes are independent study, with proctored exams conducted at the regional center.

andquot;It's a little more fit to your speed of learning,andquot; Burton said.

With Web access becoming more prevalent, distance courses have taken advantage of e-mail and chat rooms that allow on-line interaction between students and professors.

andquot;You can have that classroom interaction while sitting at home,andquot; Waldo said.

Distance students can also get a taste of traditional campus life by signing up for weekend college, full-credit courses crammed into two- or three-day sessions.

andquot;That gives the best of both worlds. You get to see other people and feel like you're in school,andquot; Burton said.

For some students, all coursework can be completed from a distance.

andquot;Sometimes they go for graduation and it's their first time on campus,andquot; Burton said.

No matter how they achieve their higher education goals, there's at least one vital resource that can benefit any student, said Joyclynn Potter, who recently completed her four-year degree in 2 years.

andquot;Being a distance student and having all the other responsibilities of life you need a network of support,andquot; she said. andquot;I don't think I would have done half of what I did if I didn't have support behind me.andquot;

For more information about EOU's distance education program, stop by the Baker office at 2100 Main St., or call Burton at 523-5801.