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Portland Mercury: PSU Welcomes Students from Saudi Arabia Barred from Canada Universities
Author: Alex Zielinski, Portland Mercury
Posted: August 14, 2018

Read the original story in the Portland Mercury.

Portland State University (PSU) is dipping its toe into a contentious international feud.

This morning, PSU announced it has removed a few admission barriers for students from Saudi Arabia enrolled in Canadian universities who were ordered by their own government to leave the country this month.

The estimated 8,000 students were recalled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after Canada's foreign affairs minister criticized the Saudi government for arresting women's rights activist Samar Badawi on August 1. Not only did this critique inspire bin Salman to suspend all scholarship programs for Saudi students in Canada, it prompted him drop all new trade deals with Canadian businesses, stop the import of Canadian wheat, and freeze all direct flights to and from Canada.

In response, PSU has offered an expedited admissions process and waived the undergraduate admission fee ($52) for Saudi students transferring from Canada universities. At least five Saudi students living in Canada have applied to PSU—and 40 have show interest—since last Wednesday, according to PSU's International Admissions Counselor Karen Hanson.

A PSU website dedicated to this transfer process reads: "As an institution with a commitment to serving diverse learners, we are confident that PSU will provide an innovative environment for you to continue your studies."

PSU currently has 236 Saudi students—the second-largest international population on campus.

The Trump administration has avoided getting involved in the Canada-Saudi Arabia spat over human rights, for now. It's unknown which other US universities, if any, have specifically reached out to the displaced Saudi students to help them continue their education.

Asked if this decision is at all a statement on the international debate, PSU spokesperson Kurt Bedell said: "We just feel for these students, some of them are just two credits short from graduating and don't know what to do. We are just signaling our support to students from Saudi Arabia."