SOU students hurry education

ASHLAND — The economy hasn't shifted Southern Oregon University students' choice of majors yet, but it has encouraged them to finish school faster.

The accelerated baccalaureate program, which allows students to graduate in three years instead of four, has seen a rise in applications. Program director Curt Bacon attributes the surge to students seeking to cut education costs.

"We're planning some new marketing materials, but I think most of it is people are recognizing that an education in three years is a good deal," Bacon said.

Eight students already had accepted offers by the end of February, with three more months left to apply, he said. Last year, nine students entered the program.

Bacon said those are not huge numbers because the program requires that students enter with a relatively strong high school grade-point average and a well-defined idea of what they want to study.

Once accepted, students are allowed to skip general education requirements and some electives and start work immediately on their majors. Students still must fulfill all major and upper-division general education requirements.

"The idea is the hard work they do in high school — (advanced placement) classes, honors, extra science or math — we recognize that, and essentially we're waiving their freshman year of college," Bacon said.

Students are excused from a total of 45 degree credits, so they may graduate with just 135 credits instead of the typical 180 required for a four-year degree. Oregon residents enrolled in the program would save about $15,000 on room, board, tuition, fees and books, Bacon said.

Students on the Western Undergraduate Exchange scholarship, who pay one and a half times in-state tuition, would save approximately $17,000 and students paying full out-of-state tuition would save about $27,000, he said.

So far, students seem to be sticking with their chosen plan of study and not switching to preprofessional tracks that some might consider more practical.

"Our current enrollment in terms of how it's distributed by major is really not different from how it's been for the last two years, which honestly kind of surprises me a little bit," said Matt Stillman, director of enrollment analysis for the university.

Julie French is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach her at 482-3456 ext. 227 or jfrench@dailytidings.com.

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