PSU triples down on programs and services that help students graduate

An all-campus effort to help more students graduate will roll out across the Portland State campus this year, with staff and faculty offering support at early signs of academic trouble and during personal and financial crises.

 The renewed attention on student success builds on several effective strategies already in place at PSU. Many of the university’s support services are now clustered under one roof in the recently upgraded Fariborz Maseeh Hall, formerly known as Neuberger Hall.

Maseeh Hall also features a center for students who are transferring or returning to college after a long absence. The Transfer + Returning Student Resource Center will work to create a culture of belonging and cultivate degree completion by providing early academic and career advising. The center will also help coordinate and develop transfer agreements, pathways and supportive programs.

“Of course, caring about student success is not new to us,” Interim President Stephen Percy said. “It has been a major component of our work for decades. I believe that everyone has a role in advancing retention, quality learning, and graduation of PSU students.”

PSU educates more first-generation college students, more students of color, and more Oregonians than any other university in the state. While the university has won accolades for helping students with financial need to obtain a college degree, too many students still leave PSU without graduating, said Susan Jeffords, provost.

PSU’s student success strategy is focused on four pillars: persistence, academics, affordability, and student experience, all supported by the strategic use of data. The mission will be to get the right support to the right student at the right time.

Persistence: PSU will expand case management to help individual students persist and address barriers to persistence. This is all about collecting and synthesizing key data and putting it in the hands of faculty, staff, and students. The university will use this data to check-in with students who appear to be struggling, identifying early warning signs and then providing resources and support.

PSU will learn from successful case management practices already in place at PSU and elsewhere. A few examples of these from PSU include the CARE Team, TRIO/McNair programs and others housed in Multicultural Retention Services, BUILD EXITO, School of Business, Athletics, International Student Support, and the Last Mile Program.

Academics: This work will enhance students' academic agency and success by promoting supportive academic relationships, engaged learning experiences and reducing curricular roadblocks. For example, PSU will look at whether gateway courses and prerequisites are preparing students for more challenging courses in their chosen course of study, and will support the practice of culturally responsive instruction.  Potential transfer students will also experience academic advising before they enroll in PSU to help ensure the maximum number of courses apply directly to their PSU degree. Additionally, the university will scale-up efforts to identify students who might be at risk of not succeeding in selected high-impact courses and provide timely support.

Affordability: Administrators are considering several ideas to improve the overall affordability of a PSU education. One initiative, aimed at textbook costs, focuses on helping faculty adopt Open Educational Resources when appropriate. The university will look for ways to channel scholarship and financial aid funding more effectively and improve students’ financial wellness, helping give students sound information that allows them to make intelligent financial and academic decisions and limit borrowing.

Student Experience: Researchers know that students are more likely to remain in college if they experience a sense of belonging. The university will incorporate student feedback as it improves places, services, and processes so that they are, at every point, focused on improving the student experience.

PSU will hold forums for the campus community, including with student government leadership and Faculty Senate, to provide input. More information on the Student Success Effort can be found on our webpage, including the Leadership Council members and the co-chairs for each pillar. To share ideas or feedback on the Student Success Effort, or to receive periodic updates, please use the Student Success Effort - Ideas and Interest Form. 

Story by Paige Parker 

Homepage photo by NashCo: Becki Ingersoll, director of Initiatives in the Undergraduate Advising Resource Center, working with student Kitty Noowong.