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SOU's cohort of first-year students is diverse and smart

SOU’s first-year cohort: diverse, smart and persistent

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University’s 2020 cohort of first-year students is fairly evenly split between Oregon and out-of-state residents, much more diverse than either Jackson county or the state as a whole and has a wide variety of scholarly interests, with students in 19 academic majors.

The freshman class of 570 – not including transfer students – is also smart, with an average high school grade point average of 3.34. Another 380 first-year transfer students have enrolled at SOU this fall, along with nearly 3,000 continuing, returning and non-admitted students.

“We have a really good group of first-year students this fall, and great students who are continuing their educational journeys with us,” said Neil Woolf, SOU’s vice president for enrollment management and student affairs. “The COVID-19 pandemic, the recent wildfires and other external events have been huge distractions. All of our students this year have persevered. They want to learn and succeed.”

The pandemic and a resulting shift to mostly remote classes at SOU and most other universities resulted in dire predictions of enrollment declines in the 10 to 20 percent range for higher education institutions across the country. Official enrollment figures for Oregon’s public universities won’t be available until about halfway through fall term, but preliminary data suggest that SOU’s losses will be under 10 percent.

“We certainly would have preferred to hold steady on enrollment or even gain some students,” Woolf said. “But given this year’s realities and obstacles, this is far from a worst-case scenario. The dedication of our faculty, staff and the students themselves has been phenomenal.”

SOU’s freshman cohort is 56.6 percent female, 41 percent male and 2.4 percent non-binary. About 56 percent identify as white, just under 16 percent as Hispanic or Latinx and 28 percent as multi-racial, unknown or other people of color. By contrast, the most recent demographic data from the county and state suggest a white population of nearly 89 percent in Jackson County and 85 percent statewide – although Hispanic or Latinx residents are not separated from those figures.

Oregon residents make up 56.6 percent of SOU’s freshman class, with non-residents at 43.4 percent – led by California at 25.9 percent. Students from a total of 16 other states or territories are included in the cohort. More than 73 percent are living in SOU residence halls or other campus housing, and just under 27 percent are living off-campus.

One in five SOU freshmen have not yet declared an academic major. For those who have decided on majors, the top choices are psychology, theatre arts, biology, creative arts, pre-nursing, business, and criminology and criminal justice.

-SOU-