Southern Oregon University

Any recent feedback on SOU? I’ve dug deep into forums and online, but it’s one that I find limited information on. I would love ANY feedback on Southern Oregon University.

It seems like a PERFECT fit for our daughter (Creative Writing BFA / Musical Theatre Minor, medium size, beautiful location, LGBTQ friendly, cosplay club, nice dorm options, theatre heavy town, no Greek system, seems very nerdy drama kid friendly). Her stats are fairly high for the school, so honors college would hopefully be a realistic option, and being from the west the WUE tuition rate is very appealing, would compete with our in state costs. But I have some concerns.


Financial stability. Their endowment seems small (28 million I believe), and it seems in recent years they’ve had to cut staff and raise tuition. We are deep diving their financials but it’s hard to know if we are getting the big picture. They are a public school, do we need to worry about them collapsing or quality of education diminishing?

Ashland. Will the reduction in tourism this year, combined with years of heavy smoke from wildfires, damage the city and thus the school? I’ve read the city’s biggest draw, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is in quite a bit of trouble.

It’s a state school so endowment is kind of a non-issue. Are you in-state or out of state? I"m a long-time OR resident but we now live in WA, in part due to the much better support that WA provides to both K-12 and higher education.

I wouldn’t worry about SOU folding. It is a state school and the only one in the southern half of the state. Well there is a tech school in Klamath Falls. Politics will prevent the state from closing regional schools when there are no alternatives nearby. If any OR state school was to close due to financial crisis at the state level it would be Western Oregon in Monmouth (near Salem) because that school has so many nearby alternatives within an hour with OSU, UO, and PSU. In Oregon the state universities are not very autonomous with respect to funding. There is a state higher education commission that divides funding up between the seven state universities and they aren’t going to let just one die. It would be a long process and SOU due to it’s location serving a major population center with Medford/Ashland/Grants Pass would not be the first to go.

As for anything else about SOU I can’t really tell you. Most Oregonians are more partial for OSU and UO.

You might also look at UO. It would match most of your daughter’s interests except for the no-Greek. They aren’t WUE but they do have generous merit scholarships for top OOS students based on GPA and test scores.

The most important part of SOU if your daughter is interested in CW is access to Ashland’s theater scene. It’s one of the best theaters in the country – bar none. I live in NYC and have attended numerous BWY events, Shakespeare in the Park etc I know many people in the industry here, from actors and dancers to stage managers and costumers. I’ve also spent several summers at Ashland over the years. Ashland is amazing. I loved SOU as a possible destination for one of my creative offspring. Your daughter could conceivably take advantage of this rare environment to learn story-telling craft – and it is a craft. Whether on stage, on the screen, or on the page, all stories start with writing. Somehow (hint: through craft that she can learn) the viewer/reader begins to live the story as it’s told, whether told visually or through writing. One advantage of a smaller college in a small town is that she will have better access if she’s the sort who can avail herself of opportunities.

Dustyfeathers, thank you so much. Your response really speaks to exactly who she is and what she’s looking for out of college.

The theatre at SOU is probably the biggest draw for her. Though she’s decided to not major in theatre, it’s her existence. She’s had a main role in every show at her school since she began Freshman year. She’s been awarded Drama Student of The Year 9th, 10th and 11th grade. She was Drama Club president this past year and will be Thespian president this year. She’s able to do tech, has some amazing self-taught wig styling skills, can do make up, she really has and will do anything involved with theatre and is at home in every aspect of it.

She gave majoring in theatre a lot of thought, but I think she’s realistic in what a mountain that is to climb and feels she would be happy if she can continue doing community theatre over the years, while pursuing a different career.

The idea of a theatre rich school makes me feel confident that she can find her people. I totally agree with what you are saying about how that atmosphere can help inspire her as a writer and really offers something unique.

And for a girl from the desert, she would be over the moon to have four seasons, trees, green, rain - all that stuff. I swear my biggest fear is I’ll never get her to come home. :slight_smile: It just feels like the perfect school in every way. Since they have rolling admissions, and she’s very much on the high end stat wise compared with their data, I think she’s going to apply in a few weeks. She still doesn’t have an SAT/ACT score (5 cancellations!) but in digging into the data I think she seems like a solid applicant for SOU. Fingers crossed. If you have any other Ashland info to share, I’d love to hear it! Thank you!

Camasite, thank you so much. That information is very helpful, reassuring and totally makes sense. I’ve never had to figure out the financial stability of a college before, that’s for sure!

We are out of state (AZ) so not very familiar with the Oregon system. As of now Lewis & Clark is also on her list, and she’s definitely exploring others in the PNW, but SOU seems a really unique fit. We will however do a deep dive on UO, thanks for that tip!

Your daughter sounds a lot like my daughter although mine is leaning more into the digital arts and creative writing and music combined somehow with life sciences. She likes molecular biology and genetics as well so we are looking for artsy schools with performing arts and music combined with life sciences. She really doesn’t know what she wants to do but wants a school that is liberal, diverse, LGBT friendly, artsy and not run by jocks. We have pretty much combed all the options here in the Northwest as she most likely wants to stay here (we are in metro Portland) or perhaps go to California, but no further. Our list:

UW-Seattle Lots of classmates attend here and it will be a top choice if she gets in. Several of her best friends have it as their #1 and we have lots of family in the Seattle area so it makes sense and is in-state.

Western Washington University: Suggest you put this on the list too as it is a WUE school and the popular choice for liberal artsy kids from WA who don’t get into UW or want something smaller and more artsy. They have a big theater program too, but obviously not the local professional theaters that Ashland has. But it is a beautiful campus of about 15,000 in a beautiful part of the country between Seattle and Vancouver BC. It is a much larger and more comprehensive university than Southern Oregon and very much up and coming. Kind of the WA version of Northern Arizona if that makes sense. Except maybe slightly higher rated. There are no Greeks or football. Both were banned or discontinued long ago. By reputation it is the most lefty “granola” campus in WA other than maybe Evergreen which is much much smaller.

Lewis & Clark: It is 30 min away for us. Very gorgeous campus on a wooded hillside in a wealthy part of Portland. It feels like it was an old rich estate that kind of grew organically with a mix of modern and traditional buildings. It doesn’t have a traditional quad layout and is sort of confusing to visit. Daughter liked it. Seems a popular choice with affluent liberal Californian kids.

University of Puget Sound. This is a peer school to Lewis & Clark so if you like one you should check out the other. It is a more traditional campus with quads and Ivy in a historic older part of Tacoma. Student body seems very similar to Lewis & Clark.
Kind of a mix of jocks and artsy types. Probably in a bit better place financially with larger endowment than Lewis & Clark but only barely. Daughter liked it slightly better than Lewis & Clark but they are very similar. Students are very outdoorsy with lots and lots of hiking clubs and that sort of thing. They also have marine biology and are right on Puget Sound so that is a plus. They also have a top international study program as does Lewis & Clark and also support it. Our daughter wants to study in South America at some point and explore her Hispanic roots. I don’t know much about their theater program but they are renowned in the region for their music programs.

Reed College would maybe be her dream school but we will be full-pay there and they offer no merit scholarships so it is kind of unaffordable and would be hard to justify over UPS or Lewis & Clark if she earns a decent merit award at either of those schools.

Thank you so much - I have most of those on our spreadsheet but it really helps to hear what you and your daughter think. It sounds like our daughters do have a lot in common, right down to mine also loving biology. It’s so hard to get the “vibe” of the school online, yet for those small schools it feels like if you misread the vibe it could be a bit of a disaster. So thank you - your feedback is very much appreciated.

For WWU how would it be traveling to and from there? I do have a good friend in Everett, would be nice to have someone not terribly far (it feels so far away from mom!!!)

Can I just say how jealous I am of all the options you guys have up there. Growing up in AZ and going to ASU, I never realized that other places had so many more, and so many diverse, options. I wish I could keep her here, she’s such a joy and nobody makes me laugh like she does, but I know our schools really are not a great fit.

OP–you’re a great parent for thinking of her needs in this way.

Full disclosure, for one of my kids we are also looking at UPS. It seems a great school though I know nothing about its theater or music programs.

Not knowing your daughter’s stats, has she also considered schools on the East Coast? If my daughter was interested in theater, I would look at –

  • Vassar – amazing theater program, including the theater tech–not formal classes but she would be able to do lighting and costumes etc. Vassar is need-based aid only but they love to bring in students from all states in the country. AZ might be a draw for them. Their need-based aid is amazing. Also, Vassar is on the commuter trainline to NYC and students from Vassar do work in the City in various ways. The commute is long (2hrs) so it’s not ideal for daily work in the City but it’s short enough to go in, see a play with 1/2 price tickets and get back to Vassar. Vassar has a 1200 acre campus that’s an arboretum. Gorgeous
  • Wesleyan – ditto the above minus the train and arboretum, though it’s a pretty-enough campus. Carpooling to NYC is very possible fro here though, or carpooling to the other MetroNorth commuter train line that goes up the CT coast. Need-based aid is amazing. Lin-Manuel Miranda came from Wesleyan. WU and Vassar both have theaters that develop shows as they head to BWY. Like, during the summers Vassar will stage shows to hone them for the larger run in the City.
  • Barnard – again need-based aid here only. Barnard has the theater dept for Columbia. Barnard is one of four undergraduate colleges of Columbia. BC is it’s own campus and full college and it lies across the street from CU. They share all facilities and classes. Barnard is on Broadway, the street, and is on the 1 subway line that takes her downtown to shows. CU offers free tickets to many shows and things in the City through its arts program. While a tiny campus (NYC is dense) Riverside Park is lovely and forested and goes along the Hudson, an estuary with salted water at that location. We even have a pair of bald eagles nesting this year! It’s small but effective “forest” though can’t compete with the PNW by any stretch.
  • Bryn Mawr and Haverford – BMC is known for having a decent theater program but not as well-developed as Vassar and Wesleyan. BMC and Haverford share campuses so though BMC is very much its own school and a women’s college, there are men on campus. BMC gives merit aid. BMC’s campus is gorgeous and it’s like living in a Scottish castle. Literally like that. Haverford’s architecture is Quaker and plain but striking just the same. The two styles are great for contrast. Haverford has a running track that goes through a small forest (very small) on campus. It’s lovely.

FIT–if she decides that costuming is her calling, this school is in NYC proper, very urban, but it’s a jewel that few people know about. It is a SUNY and specializes in fashion. It has a costume program. Compared to places like Parsons, it’s a very good program and relatively cheap. For example:

There are other possible programs at various schools. I would like to emphasize that she might want to consider the tech side of theater too. Honing those skills and gaining contacts in those areas might help her stay in a theater career. That could support her writing. Writing well requires an apprentice period when she will hone her craft. She should figure 5-10 years of craft honing before she begins to see success–it’s just how it is. (I’m in the CW field). Even the most successful authors, those with “overnight success” are overnight after like 20 years of practice. With rare exception. So probably planning for a job that can support herself during her apprentice period is wise. My motto is Plan for the Day Job or It Will Plan for You. So she might focus on gaining business or admin skills, for example, grant writing that sort of thing–which she can pick up even at community college, these hard skills. Grant writing is a great skill and if she can do it, she can stay employed in a field that she loves while also honing her writing craft. Every community theater needs grants to stay alive. If she can bring in the cash, she will be golden for a job. Staying in the field may help her keep the contacts she needs to get her own work going once it gets good enough. The key about choosing an apprentice job, whatever she chooses, is that 1) it will pay her health insurance; 2) pay her rent; 3) and ideally will not be so sloggy and so mentally demanding that she can’t write every day. To hone her craft she will need to write every day for at least an hour. What she writes doesn’t matter. By writing something every day, over time, she will develop her VOICE and her VOICE is what makes her work fly off the page and into people’s hearts. VOICE is both subject matter and how the story is told, both the writer’s own voice and that of her characters. Voice is hard won and as far as I’ve ever seen, there’s no shortcut.

You might want to check out the costs of Vassar etc on COLLEGE NAVIGATOR. Click on the NET PRICE tab to see relative costs.

Best of luck to both of you!!

There are absolutely a lot of great schools on the east coast, a number of those names have popped up on my radar, but honestly, it’s just too far. That said I guess a plane ride is a plane ride and we probably should open up to them a bit more. While I wouldn’t call her an ivy kid by any means, she has a very respectable GPA, high rigor at an advanced pace (could have graduated this year), and great depth, leadership and passion in her ECs.

She’s got quite a few in Ohio on her radar because we have family there, same with St. Louis. She struggles with anxiety/depression and also has food allergies, and I have great concern for her not having a built in support system. She’s a kid who rarely goes out (though part of that is not finding her people) and is very close with her father and myself. I think that’s why I so badly want her to find a school that’s a social emotional fit, to give her the best chance at creating her own support system and friends. Unfortunately AZ schools are so large and anonymous, they don’t seem like a fit (though she will apply). It is tough, especially with LACs, they are heavily weighted out east.

Thanks for the other great suggestions. Definitely some solid advice to really take to heart. She’s had a bit of insight because I’ve written three books, though they are totally different than novels, but she has grown up seeing how much time and work it takes to bring a book to fruition, as well as the challenges of working with agents and publishers. And all the frustration, lots of that! Right now I’m having her start writing for my website, knowing if she finds her groove it would definitely be a great job she could do flexibly for people like myself through college and beyond.

She’s also been writing a novel for the past 18 months and her senior capstone will focus on documenting the process and undertaking the challenging goal of getting it published, or pursuing self publishing. Her theatre capstone will be adapting a favorite book for stage, and possibly bringing at least a few scenes to stage (so unknown with the world how it is). I figure it should be a good year of growth both in writing, and the business around writing. I’m glad she has these really creative endeavors that she’s passionate about to focus on this year, that’s for sure!

Thank you for all your amazing advice and feedback, it’s so valuable, I really appreciate it.

I guess the grass is always greener because it doesn’t feel like we have many options compared to the midwest or east coast. But I guess we do have more private options than AZ.

Bellingham would be considerably easier to get to than Ashland. There is a direct daily shuttle bus that runs between SeaTac airport in Seattle and Bellingham that actually stops on the campus of WWU so that would be the obvious and easy way to get back and forth: There is also Amtrak Cascades train service and Bolt Bus but those would be less convenient as they don’t leave from the airport.

Alaska Airlines is also expanding service into Paine Field in Everett which is a smaller commercial airport. I think they have direct non-stop service between Phoenix and Paine Field, at least during non-Pandemic times. So that would be a potential way to get to Bellingham. The same airport shuttle bus also stops at Paine Field on the way to Bellingham so you would just be cutting the bus ride down by about 45 min or so depending on traffic.

For Ashland I’m guessing you need to fly into Medford and take a shuttle. That is probably more expensive than flying into SEA but I don’t really know for sure.

Anyway, WWU and UPS are the two schools I would definitely add to your radar. UPS would be even easier to get to because there are lots of public transit options and shuttles between Tacoma and SeaTac. SeaTac airport is actually midway between Seattle and Tacoma so just as convenient to Tacoma as Seattle

Great, thank you so much! I do believe Paine Field has flights to Sky Harbor, my friend who moved there from here, was very happy to have it as a much closer option than Sea-Tac. I will deep dive on those two schools, thank you!

If you’re willing to look at Eastern LACs, look into Muhlenberg. :slight_smile:

Thanks, haven’t even heard of it before so I’l check it out! :slight_smile: