Coming to Corvallis

Climate and Topography

United States mapCorvallis (population 58,240) is located 85 miles south of Portland in the beautiful Willamette Valley. The Willamette Valley begins at Portland and extends about 130 miles southward. To the east are the Cascade Mountains, a chain of mountains formed by volcanic activity. To the west lies the Coast Range, separating the Willamette Valley from the Pacific Coast.

Although many think Oregon is a rainy state, average rainfall (39" per year) is less than that in cities such as Atlanta, Louisville, Portland (Maine), New York, and Houston. Our proximity to the Pacific Ocean results in warm, but seldom hot, summers (average maximum July temperature is 80ºF) and an afternoon relative humidity of 35–40 percent. The ocean also has a moderating effect on winter weather (average minimum January temperature is 33ºF), resulting in little snowfall. Summers are warm and dry. In a recent poll, Corvallis ranked second in the country in terms of living quality for a small city.

Outdoor Activities

Nearly any kind of outdoor activity imaginable can be enjoyed in Oregon. Several snow skiing facilities are available within a three-hour drive of Corvallis, including Mt. Bachelor, where past U.S. Olympic ski teams have trained. Cross-country skiing and snowmobiling trails are also available at several sites in the Cascades. The Rogue, Umpqua, Snake, and Deschutes rivers are legendary for white-water rafting. Oregon's many lakes are popular with those who enjoy sailing and water skiing. World class windsurfing is available in the Columbia Gorge, some three hours north of Corvallis. Oregon has 28 wilderness areas, offering the opportunity to backpack and hike into some of the most scenic areas in the United States. For those wanting a less rustic experience, the state has 1,500 camping areas scattered across the state. Backpacking and camping gear is available for rent on campus.

Campus LifeOregon annually sets aside a small portion of highway construction funds to build bike paths within and between major metropolitan areas, making cycling a popular pastime for many Oregonians. In recent years, mountain biking has become a popular sport in the Corvallis area; many logging roads and trails are available just outside city limits. These areas are also popular with horseback riders. There are several fine golf courses in and around the Corvallis area. Fishing for steelhead, salmon, trout and other fresh water fish is an activity enjoyed by a number of faculty members and students. Hunting season in the fall is enjoyed by those interested in pursuing deer, elk, antelope, bear, pheasant, chukars, geese, and ducks.

The Pacific Ocean is an hour's drive to the west and by itself offers a wide selection of activities. Several companies charter trips (in season) for deep sea fishing, offering the possibility of catching an 80-pound halibut, a chinook salmon, or filling your freezer with bottom fish.

A popular Saturday activity is to rent pots and a boat to go crabbing in the bays along the coast or perhaps a trip during an exceptionally low tide to dig for clams. A trip to the coast in the winter or spring offers the opportunity to join other whale watchers as gray and humpback whales migrate. Oregon's beaches are protected by landmark legislation for "free and uninterrupted use" by the public. Many simply enjoy walking on the beaches, exploring the tidal pools, kiteflying, or beachcombing for driftwood, shells, or unexpected surprises. About two hours from Corvallis is the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, containing 14,000 acres of sand dunes.

Cultural Activities

Corvallis will never rival New York City with its offers of cultural art activities. Nonetheless, there are a surprising number of activities available here and within a few hours drive.

Da Vinci Days is a major summer cultural event in Corvallis that combines art, science, and technology in a way that is both unique and fresh. The Corvallis Fall Festival in late September includes entertainment, arts and crafts, and a fun run.

The Majestic Theater in Corvallis is a community-owned performance hall offering live entertainment featuring a variety of local and touring musicians and dance and theatrical productions. The Albany Civic Theater is a private/nonprofit operation that offers several productions annually with actors and crew from the central Willamette Valley.

The Hult Center in Eugene hosts a wide variety of musical and theatrical events, including the Oregon Bach Festival, the Eugene Festival of Music Theater, touring broadway musicals, and performances by the Eugene Opera, Eugene Symphony, and Eugene Ballet. The Portland area also hosts its share of musical and theatrical events, including the nationally recognized Mt. Hood Festival of Jazz. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland is nationally known for its productions of plays by classical and contemporary masters.

Octo Cam

An appreciation of Oregon's natural beauty would not be complete without a visit to one of several museums throughout the state. The Hatfield Marine Science Center is a working laboratory of oceanography. Along with the Oregon Coast Aquarium, these exhibits give visitors a greater understanding of the complex ecological system found on the Oregon coast. The High Desert Museum in Bend brings to life the unique natural and cultural heritage of the eight-state region known as the Intermountain West. Newsweek calls it "a museum of ideas." Celebrating the accomplishments of early western pioneers is Baker City's National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. The Oregon Zoo and adjoining International Rose Test gardens in Portland are a must-see for those who appreciate nature and her beauties. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry hosts touring scientific exhibits throughout the year.


Oregon State University belongs to the Pac-12 Athletic Conference and supports men's athletic teams in football, basketball, baseball, soccer, wrestling, and golf. Women's sports include basketball, volleyball, softball, soccer, golf, and gymnastics. Students also have the opportunity to participate in numerous intermural and intramural activities. In the past few years, for example, department graduate students have formed teams for soccer, volleyball, basketball, and softball. The Dixon Recreation Center is a student-supported athletic facility with space for basketball, volleyball, handball, racquetball, swimming, bowling, ping-pong, weight lifting, and aerobic exercise. The Stevens Natatorium is a state-of-the-art swimming facility with an eight-lane lap pool, a 14-foot diving well, and a 2,000-gallon spa.

Schools and Child Care

Preschool - OSU operates a child care center on campus for children of faculty, students, and staff. They provide care for infants through kindergarten. There are annual registration and education fees, and financial aid is available to low-income families. More information on OSU's child care options are available here.

Many child-care facilities also are available off campus. Prices vary depending on age of child, whether or not food is provided, and types of extracurricular activities. Care for children under two is more difficult to find and is more expensive. To obtain more information on off-campus child care write to Family Connections, 6500 Pacific Boulevard SW, Albany, OR 97321 or call 541-917-4899.

Primary and Secondary School. Oregon is known for its innovative primary and secondary educational system. Corvallis has one of the best school districts in the state. The Corvallis school system has 11 elementary schools, 3 middle schools, and 2 high schools. Besides basic curriculum, elementary students receive special instruction in art, music, and physical education. Additional programs exist for talented and gifted students and English as a Second Language. Private and parochial schools are available in the area and parents can choose to home school their children. More information about the school district can be obtained from Corvallis School District 509J, P.O. Box 3509J, Corvallis, OR 97339-3509J or by calling 541-757-5811.

Higher Education. Oregon State University's traditional strength as an undergraduate educational institution has been a curriculum that focuses on the sciences, engineering, and agriculture. OSU also has many excellent faculty and strong programs in business, forestry, oceanic and atmospheric science, public health, and the liberal arts. The University of Oregon, in nearby Eugene, has exclusive responsibility for the Oregon State System of Higher Education in architecture, law, and journalism graduate training. The proximity of OSU to other schools and employment opportunities makes it possible for dual-career couples to pursue their goals in most fields of interest. In addition, Linn-Benton Community College, located less than 10 miles from Corvallis, offers vocational training and lower division college courses in a smaller environment than that at OSU. A number of other public and private schools are located within an hour's drive of Corvallis.


The OSU Beaver Bus offers a free campus shuttle service for the convenience of students, staff and all visitors between 7:00 AM and 7:00 PM, Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. Four buses serve campus on three routes every 5 to 14 minutes (route depending) for 33 weeks per year; one bus runs on one route the other 19 weeks of the year. Buses are handicap accessible, heated, and air conditioned.

Bus. The City of Corvallis Transit System offers fareless (free) bus service 7 days a week, with some night service added during the school year. There are 11 daytime routes, and 3 night routes. Click on the City of Corvallis web site for more information about transportation options. 

Auto. Corvallis is about 10 miles west of I-5, the major freeway linking Washington, Oregon, and California. A four-lane highway extends from the freeway to Corvallis. Because Corvallis is a small town, traffic congestion is seldom a problem. On-campus parking can be purchased by the day or by the year. Parking Services.

Cycling. The mild weather and excellent bike paths make bicycling the preferred commuting method for many faculty, staff, and students. Motorcycles also can be ridden year-around.

Train. Amtrak has daily service from Albany (12 miles away).

Air. The Eugene Airport is about 45 minutes south of Corvallis and is served by Alaska, Allegiant, Delta, American, and United airlines. Portland International Airport is less than a two-hour drive north of Corvallis and is served by all major domestic airlines. Many international flights also arrive daily in Portland.

Employment Opportunities. For more than 100 years OSU has been an important employer in the Corvallis area. Corvallis is also the founding city for one of the largest environmental engineering consulting firms in the United States, CH2M-Hill, and has a large Hewlett-Packard plant. Consequently, there are employment opportunities for family members. Albany, Eugene-Springfield, and Salem are within an hour's drive of Corvallis and offer a wide range of employment options. Students needing employment can look at the campus employment office, online, and in want ads in the local newspaper.

On-Campus Housing

Student housing is available on campus for graduate students. Halsell Hall has a designated section for graduate students. A nonrefundable application fee is required to reserve a room. Several meal plans are available from OSU Food Services. Summer housing and meals are also available at an additional charge. Room and board rates and further information can be obtained by calling the Department of University Housing and Dining Services at 541-737-4771. 

Orchard Court is a family student apartment complex owned by the University.  Orchard Court contains one-, two-, or three-bedroom apartments. All apartments can be rented unfurnished or with a basic set of furnishings. Each apartment is carpeted and has electric heat. Coin-operated washers and dryers are available in the complex. Also available is a playground area for children and an area for gardens. Water, garbage, and basic television cable service is provided. 

Generally the waiting time to obtain family student housing can be one year or longer. Students can be added to the waiting list before arriving in Corvallis, but they must have been admitted to the University. Residents cannot have a staff appointment at OSU that is greater than 0.5 FTE. Length of a stay in this housing may be limited to three years or completion of one degree at OSU, whichever occurs sooner. More information can be obtained by contacting University Housing and Dining Services.

Off-Campus Housing

Off-campus housing provides the bulk of housing needs for graduate students in the department. Living off campus is generally more expensive than on campus, particularly for students with families, but offers greater variety in location and amenities. As budding economists might expect (or have experienced previously), housing costs are highest close to campus and decline as one moves out of Corvallis.

Health Benefits

Participation in the health insurance program is voluntary for domestic students. International students are required to purchase insurance unless they can prove they are covered by insurance in their own country. The insurance program provides major medical protection. Additional catastrophe insurance is available for a small fee. For more information call 541-737-7568. See the OSU General Catalog for more information about student health services. Student Health Services

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Corvallis is modest compared with living in other parts of the United States. Oregon has no sales tax, relying instead on income and property taxes to fund state and local services. Oregon's climate makes it a virtual cornucopia for agricultural products. One can raise a very productive garden or buy the excess from the gardens of others. Fruit in season can also be purchased at a modest cost. Oregon's proximity to California assures a source of fresh fruits and vegetables in the winter. In short, food may cost less in Corvallis than in the Midwest or on the East Coast.