The rise of Portland State University
As the largest and most diverse university in Oregon, we’ve worked hard to create a vital education and research environment at our growing downtown campus. In the fall, for example, U.S. News & World Report ranked PSU among the nation’s top 10 “up and coming” universities, along with USC, Arizona State and others. This winter, the Oregon Board of Higher Education awarded PSU $1 million because we graduate more Oregon residents and more minority Oregonians than any other public university in the state.
What sets us apart from other universities are the hundreds of opportunities that connect our students to the real world through community and Senior Capstone projects, partnerships, internships and outside-the-classroom experiences.
Access to Portland State must remain affordable to students and families. Frankly, that has been difficult in recent years as the state has sharply reduced funding for PSU and other universities. Taxpayers reap direct benefits from higher education, which is proven to be the smartest investment that states can make to bolster their economy.
Research shows that lifetime earnings for a college graduate are 2.3 times higher on average than for those without a degree. And a recent national study by Pew Charitable Trust shows that even during the recession, 21- to 24-year-olds armed with four-year degrees landed significantly more higher-paying jobs and experienced far less unemployment than their peers with high school diplomas or two-year college degrees.
That’s our job. Last year, 6,039 students were awarded degrees at PSU — the most degrees at any university in Oregon’s history. Employers are taking notice, with more than 200 businesses, nonprofits and public employers — from Boeing to Intel to Mercy Corps — coming to campus careers fairs to recruit our next wave of 2013 graduates.
While state support has dwindled, the costs to educate students have remained roughly the same adjusted for inflation, but those costs have shifted dramatically from the state to the student. As a result, we increasingly look to private philanthropy to help fund scholarships and other support so we can provide the kind of opportunities that are critical to Oregon’s success.
We are mindful of the burden of tuition and debt and are developing efficiencies and cost-saving measures across campus. For example, we have launched a “ReThink PSU” initiative that includes designing new interactive courses to enable students to spend less time in lectures and more individual time with professors. We also are developing a plan to enable entering students to graduate in four years, which saves them significant money and time.
We have added advisers to help students determine their majors and chart their coursework toward a degree, expanded orientation for freshmen and transfers, boosted retention rates, and maintained class sizes to an average of 24 students. For high-achieving students, we have strengthened our Honors Program, which grew by 59 percent this past year.
To learn more about PSU, please take a close look at our Progress Report. And if you haven’t been on campus in a while, I encourage you to visit us in 2013 to see firsthand all the progress we’ve made.
President, Portland State University