Southern Oregon University – Fueling the Local Economy

Southern Oregon University – Fueling the Local Economy

by Ainoura Oussenbec

December 29, 2016

Southern Oregon has a number of large employers vital for the local economy. Among those, Southern Oregon University (SOU) provides many benefits in addition to jobs and revenue. Not every region of this size is blessed with the presence of a higher education institution that employs 600 professionals, indirectly supporting another 1,700 jobs in the Rogue Valley.

SOU specializes in liberal arts and sciences offering about 100 areas of study and more than 30 majors. In spite of the smaller size or maybe because of it, SOU attracts a significant number, 38 percent, of students from other states and other countries. These out-of-state students alone spend more than $26 million in Southern Oregon every year.

Of the 1,000 plus graduates produced every year, the majority tend to stay in Oregon. About 45 percent of the graduates were working in Southern Oregon, according to one recent survey. This fact contradicts the old perception that most SOU graduates are unable to find local jobs or not interested in staying in the Valley.

SOU works closely with local employers in an effort to provide students with the opportunities to learn “real life work skills” through internships, job fairs and other networking events. In addition, the majority of students today are “non-traditional,” i.e. already coming from some work experience and much older than student generations in the past. These experienced, more mature students bring that “real life” perspective to the studies and help to take SOU beyond traditional educational models.

SOU is not only the largest employer in Ashland and one of the largest employers in Jackson County. As the economy becomes based more on knowledge and information, our local universities and colleges can play a key role in continued growth and economic vitality.