March 25, 2021 Message

Federal COVID Relief for Portland State

March 25, 2021

Dear Campus Colleagues, 

I sincerely hope that many of you are able to find time to rejuvenate this spring break or over the next few weeks. I wanted to take a moment to share some very positive news about the availability of federal financial relief for PSU. 

The passage of the American Rescue Plan Act earlier this month brings critical sustaining funding to higher education nationwide. It offers short-term stabilization for our university and provides critical assistance to students as we imagine a stronger future for PSU.

This latest congressional action builds on earlier investments made through the CARES Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA). In total, PSU is receiving approximately $105 million in federal relief. Of that amount, a minimum of $44 million is designated for financial assistance that the university pays directly to students. Each of these funds is or will be available on different timelines and are subject to different legal requirements.

Approximately $17 million in CARES Act funding became available to PSU last spring. The funds were only to be used for direct student aid or actual expenses related to responding to Covid-19. PSU distributed almost $8.3 million of the student portion through grantmaking, providing emergency aid for over 5,000 PSU students. After consulting with the Faculty Senate Budget Committee and ASPSU, nearly $6 million of the institutional funds were expended on instructional support for remote learning, safety enhancements for on-campus employees, and direct refunds for housing and other actual expenses. Specific details are available on our website.

Funds from CRRSAA became available to PSU last week and we anticipate resources from the American Rescue Plan will become available in late April. 

Our first and highest priority is to distribute the student assistance. Too many PSU students have faced dire financial hardship this past year, including challenges to addressing basic needs like food and shelter. I am awed by their commitment to continuing their academic progress. With the latest federal funds now available, I look forward to announcing another round of student relief grants next week.

Institutional funds are also important as we address the myriad impacts of the pandemic on our operations. We are reviewing new guidance that was made available this past Friday and are continuing to inventory the impacts of Covid-19 to our university both retrospectively and prospectively. 

These timely congressional investments present our community with very important relief as well as opportunities to support our students, faculty and staff as we return to in-person instruction. 

  • We expect to be able to mitigate many of the significant costs and revenue losses resulting from Covid-19.
  • We will look to invest in supportive and restorative student services that reduce the anxiety of returning to classrooms and create a solid pathway for academic success and persistence.
  • We will continue to invest in measures that support a safe and healthy return to campus in the fall, with a focus on physical and mental well-being.
  • It will take time for our students to recover financially and emotionally from the past year. Augmenting all types of support for our students will also be a critical area of focus.

The federal funds lessen the impacts of Covid-19, but do not eliminate the need to reimagine our university. In fact, the pandemic may strengthen the case. The Provost, Vice President for Finance and Administration and I recently held three town halls to share a multi-year plan for this important work. Our academic programs and administrative operations must evolve to meet the dynamic needs of a new, more diverse generation of students and an evolving workforce. Federal funding grants us some valuable breathing room as we move ahead with the strategic transformations we know are necessary to strengthen our academic and scholarly impact in a rapidly changing environment and stabilize our financial position.

We stand by our commitment to transparency and accountability. I will provide additional information about the process and use of federal funds in the coming weeks. Equal transparency will be applied to our work on reimagining our academic programs. We will continue to collaborate with the Faculty Senate and student government to inform our decision-making. And, as with all I do, the work will be guided by my priorities of racial justice, student success and community engagement. 


Stephen Percy

PSU President