Western Oregon University Celebrates Passage of Bill Allowing Professional Doctoral Degrees

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s recent signature on SB 230 allows the state’s three regional public universities to offer professional doctoral degrees and aids Western Oregon University’s goal of offering doctoral degrees in high-demand, high-paying fields. The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2022.


Since 1997, when the three regional colleges were redefined as comprehensive universities, Western Oregon, Eastern Oregon and Southern Oregon have been restricted to conferring degrees no higher than a master’s. Now, they can offer professional doctoral degrees, which differ from research doctorates (Ph.D.s) in that they are designed to prepare students for a particular specialty; they often lead to professional licensure. Professional doctoral degrees are common in fields WOU is strongest in such as education, health sciences and business.


“We are excited about this long-anticipated outcome,” said WOU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Rob Winningham. “Now, Western, under its independent board, can control its destiny by proposing and delivering academic programs that meet market need. WOU is simply continuing its evolution to remain relevant in today’s economy.”


As WOU moves forward in its journey to being a Hispanic Serving Institution and supporting underrepresented communities, the bill’s passage will also allow it to provide new pathways for students to be ready for well paying, community-focused professional jobs.


“Passage of SB 230 was the result of active support and recognition by the Oregon Legislature that WOU plays a critical role in meeting the emerging workforce needs of the region and the state,” said Associate Vice President for Public Affairs and Strategic Initiatives David McDonald. “The ability to offer professional doctorates is a natural extension of the targeted and successful education and training we have provided for decades in areas such as Community Health, Criminal Justice, Education and other programs designed to prepare students for rewarding professional careers.  We are excited to be able to better serve Oregon and its residents.”

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