PSU raises more than $44 million in private donations for student scholarships
Author: Chris Broderick, University Communications
Posted: November 19, 2014

Portland State University leaders announced that PSU has raised more than $44 million for scholarships from donors who recognize the increasing financial needs of college students.  

President Wim Wiewel said increased funding for scholarships is vital at a time when college costs have risen in the wake of years of declining state support for higher education.  Nearly 60 percent of PSU’s 28,000 students receive financial aid, and most of that aid comes from loans. For students who take out loans, the average debt upon graduation is $26,000.

“Part of our serve-the-city mission is to make our academic excellence as accessible as possible,” Wiewel told a scholarship event audience Tuesday night at Smith Memorial Student Union. “It’s one thing to bring students into PSU and quite another to make sure they come out the other side with an excellent education, not overburdened by debt. Scholarships make that happen.”

David and Christine Vernier, founders of a Beaverton-based software firm, announced a gift of $3.6 million. David Vernier, who with his wife was awarded the Simon Benson Award for Philanthropy last month, said their gift will help remove financial barriers for students who otherwise may not be able to afford college, particularly students who are the first in their family to attend college.    

The owners of Portland-based Pizzicato Pizza restaurants also announced that they are establishing a PSU scholarship program for their 300 employees. Pizzicato President Tracy Frankel and CEO Felix Rippel said many of their workers have high school diplomas and need both aid and encouragement to take the next step into a college experience.        

Karla Andrade is a Communication major at PSU with an ambition to become a Spanish-language broadcaster. A Klamath Falls native and daughter of Salvadoran immigrants, she said the scholarship that she received has enabled her to complete her studies and graduate with a bachelor’s degree next spring,

“This is why I am so appreciative for all of the donors at PSU,” she told the audience. “It is because of your generosity and kindness that I can finish school.”

PSU Foundation President Francoise Aylmer said the university’s original goal two years ago in launching the “Creating Futures” initiative was to raise $50 million for scholarships.  But she said response from donors has been so “overwhelming and inspiring” that PSU plans “to keep going and continue beyond $50 million. We need to.”

For more information on the “Creating Futures” scholarship initiative, go to