I’ve mentioned the “former OSU program” many times is Kameoka Corner articles, but how did it come about and what caused its demise. Well, this is my best effort to answer those questions.
Kameoka and Stillwater entered into a sister cities agreement in November 1985 and in November 1986 a delegation from Kameoka, led by then mayor of Kameoka, Yoshihisa Taniguchi, came to Stillwater to celebrate the first anniversary of the relationship. During their time in Stillwater the members of the delegation were given a tour of OSU including the English Language Institute which teaches English as a second language to internationals.
Mayor Taniguchi asked if OSU could set up a similar program in Kameoka. That conversation continued for some time, but at the same time there was another conversation taking place in Japan. From the mid 1950 until about 1980 Japan had a massive trade surplus with the U.S. as well as with many other countries.
It reached the point where our government was about ready to take some action when the Japanese finally decided to take action which they saw as benefiting both them and us. Their plan was to use some of the surplus to encourage institutions of higher education in the U.S. to set up branch campuses in Japan.
Kameoka became aware of that and asked if they could work with OSU to establish a branch campus in Kameoka. Those conversations resulted in the establishment of Oklahoma State University-Kyoto, or OSU-K.
The K was for Kyoto because OSU is a state university and Kyoto is the prefecture or state where it existed. The program was a five-year program with the first year devoted to English language instruction in the ELI program on the OSU campus, the second and third years were on the OSU-K campus in Kameoka and fourth and fifth years were on the OSU campus in Stillwater.
Everything on the OSU-K campus, all laboratory equipment, faculty and staff salaries and housing was paid for with surplus funds of the Japanese government, so it cost OSU virtually nothing. The first group of students were accepted in a ceremony in Kameoka in early spring of 1990 and arrived on the OSU campus in time for the summer semester.
Those who passed the TOFEL exam after one year returned to Kameoka to take freshman and sophomore level general education classes. By the mid-1990s the number of Japanese students on the OSU campus was around 400 which was among the highest number of international students from one country on campus.
This pattern continued for several years and might have continued for several more years except for a few problems. Initial thinking was that Kameoka would be an ideal location for the campus because of its close proximity to the historic old capital of Kyoto, but Kyoto has several very good universities and it made it difficult for OSU-K to recruit the numbers of students needed. Second, for whatever reason, Kyoto Prefecture refused to accredit the school which made recruiting more difficult.
Third, there were a number of U.S. schools that set up campuses across Japan and the tuition at OSU-K was among the highest or any of the schools, again making recruitment more difficult. Fourth, and probably most significant, the economic buddle that Japan had enjoyed for some 30 or 35 years burst in the late 1980s and began a significant downturn from which it has never fully recovered, pretty much cutting off funding for the school as well as reducing the ability of families to pay tuition.
The OSU-K students were very good students, but not the “cream of the crop” and some would have never received a degree if not for the OSU-K program. My life was truly enriched by having been a member of the faculty in Kameoka.
Larry Jones is a member of the Stillwater Sister Cities Council.