Outside University: 17. Reed College

Portland, Oregon

Reed College.    

Founded by Columbia River pioneers as an alternative to the elitism of the East Coast Ivies, Reed is known for its progressive, anti-establishment leanings. The campus is surrounded by state and national land, including Mount Hood National Forest 17 miles to the east. It’s bisected by a canyon that’s also a national wildlife preserve with its own hiking trail.

Though students are encouraged to be as free-thinking as possible (Steve Jobs was a Reed dropout), physical education is a requirement for graduation, an imperative that can be fulfilled with classes like backcountry navigation, bouldering, hiking, horseback riding, or kayaking.

The biology department will also get you outside: A course called “Field Biology and Natural History of Amphibians of the Pacific Northwest” takes field trips to a variety of amphibian-heavy habitats.

New students are strongly encouraged to participate in an “orientation odyssey,” options for which include rafting the Deschutes ($490) or backpacking the Cascades ($325). After putting a bit of time in at Reed, you can plan and lead your own outdoor outing—a whole how-to handbook exists to guide those interested. Alternatively, you can just join a trip that someone else organized: There’s always a good list of everything from rafting the Clackamas to surfing excursions on the Oregon coast. Gear is rented for free for two weeks, so you can pick up packs, sleeping bags, stoves, snowshoes, trekking poles, or whatever else you’ll need.

Alumni wanting to experience, as its website says, “the communal nature of the sleeping, living, and cooking areas” of the Reed Ski Cabin in Government Camp, along the Mount Hood Scenic Byway, get “a great opportunity to practice the art of living under Reed's honor principle.”

CONTACT: (503) 771-1112, reed.edu
STUDENT BODY: 1,457 undergraduates, 17 graduates
TUITION: $44,460, room and board $11,460

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