Pacific Northwest College Road Trip: University of Oregon

Want to know what it's like to attend this school in Eugene, Ore.? Read on.

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With about 19,500 undergraduates and just under 4,000 graduate students, the University of Oregon can justifiably call itself a "medium-size" school. The campus can be traversed by foot in about 15 minutes, but many students prefer to bike it. Cycling lanes wind across UO's 295-acre Eugene campus, which sets aside about twice as many spots for bikes as it does for cars.

The campus's commitment to fitness suits a school based in the city often referred to as "Track Town USA." The university's celebrated track and field stadium, Hayward Field, hosted the U.S. Olympic Team track trials in 2008 and will do so again in 2012. Nike cofounders Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight attended the school, and Knight's name is emblazoned on buildings throughout the campus, from the library to the new $200 million basketball arena, which he helped underwrite.

The UO campus glows with green (one of the school's official colors) whether it's seen in the painted duck footprints that line many sidewalks or manifested in environmentally friendly structures, like the Lillis Business Complex with its energy-saving solar panels. Some other newer facilities don't mesh as well with the historic architecture of the older buildings, but the campus is dotted with plenty of sculptures and trees that please the eye.

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Admission to the school is not extremely competitive. Of the 22,000 applicants last year, about 17,000 were admitted. Roughly one fifth of undergraduates (mostly freshmen) live on campus. Some lucky students can even apply for rooms in the university's newest dorm, the Living-Learning Center, which includes both living spaces and classrooms, allowing fortunate residents to roll out of bed and walk downstairs to class.

Though the Ducks sports teams receive a lot of media coverage, the university also boasts top-notch programs in business, journalism, economics, and the sciences, among others. And architecture students have the opportunity of venturing to the state capital of Salem, about 60 miles north of campus, where they work on projects that range from developing that city's downtown waterfront to designing mixed-use housing developments.

Roughly 3,600 classes are offered each term representing some 75 majors, but students say they appreciate UO's ability to keep the student-to-teacher ratio to a very manageable 20 to 1.

Outside the classroom, the student government controls a $12 million budget, doling out money to 250 or so clubs and organizations. These range from ballroom dancing and a cappella groups to the pre-dental club and various multicultural associations. (The Oregon Daily Emerald's budget actually allows it to pay its reporters).

Many undergraduates spend their free time hanging out at the restaurants and shops lining the "campus downtown," along East 13th Avenue, or head into Eugene for the lively music scene. As Tara Celentano of Portland, who graduated this past spring, puts it, "There are things to get stoked on."

Over the past few years, state budget cuts have sapped some of the university's resources. Tuition and fees run about $8,800 for Oregonians and $27,700 for out-of-state students. Living and food costs generally average about $9,500.

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Students say the university can't completely shake the big state school vibe, with its large lecture halls and the attention (and resources) devoted to sports. Still, says Nora Simon, a 2011 graduate from Manhattan, Kan., "there are a lot of little places that you can get involved in that make you stand out."

More From the Pacific Northwest College Road Trip:

Lewis & Clark College

Reed College

University of Washington

Whitman College

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