J.P. Hawthorne knows referring to the Portland School of Astrology as “the largest astrology school in the country” is slightly misleading.
With about 70 students and over four dozen instructors, the superlative is accurate. But that's compared to only three other astrology schools in the United States.
"It sounds good, which is why we use it," says Hawthorne, the school's founder and director, "but there's not much of a competition."
Even so, the school takes a unique approach to an admittedly niche discipline.
Operating out of a green two-story house in the Hollywood District, it offers courses in natal astrology, mythical astrology, medical astrology, ethics, and philosophy, and all with a focus on social justice.
"Students are flying in every month from around the world because no one else is doing this in their astrology community," Hawthorne says. "No one else is considering how Scorpio for a queer black woman is different than Scorpio for a straight white male."
Annual tuition for the two-year program ranges from $2,700 to $3,300 a year, depending on where students opt to pay on the "self-selected" sliding scale. The astrology program is grade-free, and after 160 hours of instruction, students receive a certificate of completion.
Hawthorne says the majority of graduates don't go into stereotypical astrological fields, such as private consultations and readings.
"To learn astrology doesn't mean you have to work with clients," Hawthorne says. "Maybe about 60 percent of students find a way to complement astrology with what they're already doing in the world."