College affordability and student success: A PSU initiative

As some news outlets have reported, Portland State University is considering an initiative that would ask voters in the tri-county area to approve a local revenue measure to make college more affordable. I would like to add some context and explain why we’re looking into this idea.

Let’s start with the Oregon Legislature. For the first time in years, lawmakers increased funding for higher education rather than make cuts. Yet the state allocation for 2015-17 remains well below what public universities received in 2007-09. PSU needs a long-term solution to avoid future cuts and tuition increases. We simply can’t pin our future financial stability on a hope that the state will invest enough in higher education.

As Oregon’s main urban university, PSU embraces a unique access mission – we offer an excellent college education to a broad cross-section of mostly Oregonians. PSU students have more financial needs than their counterparts at the University of Oregon or Oregon State University. Two-thirds of PSU’s 29,000 students qualify for financial aid. Nearly half of last year’s graduates qualified for Pell Grants because of their low incomes. Only one in five students who qualify actually receive state Opportunity Grants. More than 40 percent of our freshmen last year were students of color.

Our exploration of a possible revenue measure – most likely some sort of small business payroll tax – stems from our desire to offer more scholarships, and hire advisors and faculty to boost the region’s highly educated workforce. We’re calling it the College Affordability and Student Success Initiative. It is one of a variety of solutions we are working on to ease the cost of college and help students graduate with smaller debt loads. Among them:

• Persuade the Legislature to increase funding during the February session.
• Increase our efforts to encourage philanthropic giving.
• Launch new reTHINK initiatives that encourage efficiencies and cost-effective ways to offer courses.
• Offer additional support to help students graduate more quickly and with less debt.

We haven’t made a decision yet on whether to go forward with a possible ballot measure, and we won’t move forward without authorization from our Board of Trustees. But this is an idea well worth pursuing. I will keep you informed on new developments.

2 thoughts on “College affordability and student success: A PSU initiative

  1. wayne eric wignes says:

    Or just pack a warehouse full of bunk-beds and rent them thereby putting an option on the table that would save students thousands of dollars every quarter. Of course a millionaire like you who profits off of college being un-affordable could not fathom giving up his privacy for the sake of functionality and efficiency, but many would go for it where it made available. Furthermore it would drop rental prices as people go for a more cost-effective solution rather than always paying an arm and a leg to maintain their own privacy. Ohh wait the developers sponsoring your famous urban planning would not like that would they?

    Wiewel why is it you always hide from public feedback and engagement? Why do you claim to ask our feedback on PSU’s strategic plan yet we cannot even have a public forum about it but rather must simply submit an anonymous survey that you likely don’t even read and who cares if you do- whether or not you read it is redundant, it is the fact that we get to see what is on one anothers’ mind and see what consensus exists if any. By effectively stopping or tightly controlling any such public forum.

    You say you want to improve retention and graduation rate and there are likely a lot of very specific and detailed feedback available from students that they will not give if not given a public forum where they can see their feedback has been posted. Rather than giving pointless and vaguely stated “strategic plans” where we get to give three anonymous short answers, or rather than filling out a bubble sheet at the end of every quarter, there should be a public forum on specific departments where students can inform one another and know that they are being heard. Such a forum should be on PSU’s front page.

    And sorry to break it to you, but yes, people should even be able to get away with question the fact that – while they are struggling to eat food, to stay afloat, and are dealing with the sometimes ridiculous curriculum and study environments that this school provides – you are on vacation and making over half a million dollars a year while living in a two million dollar – publicly owned- home.

    Like

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