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SOU kicks off accelerated Pledge Program

Southern Oregon University wants to corner the secondary education market in the Rogue Valley and a new initiative known as the Jackson/Josephine Pledge Program is its latest weapon in that fight.

The program, announced via the school’s website Dec. 11, touts a tuition discount of up to 35 percent for eligible high school students from Jackson or Josephine Counties interested in an accelerated bachelor’s degree path. Not every program at SOU is included in the Pledge Program. The participating programs are: business administration, computer science, criminology, criminal justice, elementary education (not including licensure), emerging media and digital arts, health, physical education and leadership.

According to SOU associate vice president for enrollment and retention Lisa Garcia-Hanson, minimum requirements for the new program include a 3.2 GPA, or a 3.0 GPA along with a 1,050 SAT score or 20 ACT score.

“We really want to make this accessible to the most number of students who think this is something they’re interested in,” Garcia-Hanson said.

The program’s not for everyone, she added.

“We are looking for students who know that they can be self-actualizing,” she said, “because obviously it is a three-year program so there’s got to be some motivation on their part.”

In other words, fitting four years worth of credits into three is no cake walk, but Garcia-Hanson says candidates can cut into the work load by earning college credits while still in high school. Also, in an effort to help ease the burden, those who are accepted will have access to enhanced student support services, including individual advising, coaching and mentoring.

“It’s a challenging program for sure, for the three years, and there may be some possibilities that a student has to do a summer or two if they don’t bring in high school credits or something like that,” she said. “But it is absolutely possible to do it in three years and that’s why it’s limited to those certain programs, because we know those are doable programs.”

A maximum of 50 incoming freshmen will be accepted into the Pledge Program. The program is not available for transfers. (This paragraph has been changed to correct the cap on how many can enter the program.)

The university only recently began actively promoting the Pledge Program, but the response has been positive. To help get the word out, SOU has sent postcards to Jackson and Josephine County high school students who have expressed an interest in the university. Also, SOU has admission counselors who visit high schools often.

“Our office of admissions has counselors who are assigned territories all throughout the area and there are particular counselors who work directly with the schools in Jackson and Josephine Counties,” Garcia-Hanson said. “They visit them regularly and they always do as part of high school visits, college fairs, that kind of thing. So now this is one more piece of information they can share with them, and then when they do intercessions about the university and a student expresses interest in this particular program then they’re meeting with them afterward to talk with them about it.”

Students interested are encouraged to visit the program’s website – sou.edu/admissions/pledge.html. There, students can fill out an inquiry card. Those that do will be contacted by SOU representatives who can answer questions.

Garcia-Hanson couldn’t say exactly how many applicants SOU has processed so far, but the response has been encouraging.

“It’s very early, we just started releasing the applications within the last week or two because with the holidays it’s taken a little longer to get stuff out there,” she said. “But we already have more than half a dozen who have already expressed that they’re going to fill out applications and the paper work is going out this week. And that’s very early for this target we have. We didn’t anticipate how much interest we would have to begin with.”

Joe Zavala is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@dailytidings.com.