Pell Grant Review

Three students thinking about their future.

Figuring out how you will pay for college is stressful and exhausting. There are many funding opportunities, and it’s difficult to determine what you qualify for and how to apply. The Pell Grant, a federally-funded grant, is an excellent source of money for students with high financial need. In order to get the Pell Grant you must fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). We recommend completing the FAFSA ASAP so you don’t have to worry about it later.

Over 8,500 students attending PSU received the Pell Grant in 2016-17 academic year.

So, what is a grant? Unlike loans, grants are not expected to be paid back. That’s free money to help you achieve your education goals! And unlike other federal student aid, the Pell Grant can be used to cover more than just tuition and fees, like books, transportation, housing and other living expenses.

How to Apply

First, complete the FAFSA! Remember to add PSU as one of your colleges when you fill out the FAFSA (if you’ve already submitted it, you can go back in and add us).

The amount you can receive with the Pell Grant is based on financial need, cost of enrollment, and the length of time you will be in college. The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2018-19 academic year is $6,095 (this amount changes each year). If you’re not ready to complete the FAFSA, you can still estimate your Pell Grant award with the FAFSA4caster.

Check out our blog post dedicated to demystifying the FAFSA.

Eligibility

The Pell Grant provides funding for students to get their education. Here are the eligibility factors:

  • Financial need: Financial need is calculated based on cost of attendance and Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is not a number you have to come up with on your own—it’s calculated when you fill out the FAFSA. Once you complete the FAFSA, it will tell you (and PSU, if you add PSU as one of your schools) if you are eligible.
  • Enrollment: You must be enrolled or accepted for enrollment at a participating institution—PSU is one!
  • Student status: You must have earned a high school diploma, completed an approved home-school education through the high school level or earned a GED. You must also be an undergraduate student who has not yet earned a bachelor’s, associate or professional degree.
  • Citizenship: You must be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen.

* Undocumented students cannot receive federal grants, but they can receive state grants by filling out the Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA).

Other Ways PSU Is Making College Affordable

Pell Grant eligible students may be able to defer their application fee, meaning they can apply to PSU and pay the fee on their first tuition bill. Students who are Pell Grant eligible are often eligible for other funding programs through PSU, including:  

  • Four Years Free: PSU will cover standard tuition and mandatory fees for the first four years for income-eligible Oregon freshmen.
  • Transfers Finish Free: PSU will cover standard tuition and mandatory fees for income-eligible Oregon transfers.

Our goal is to have students graduate on time with as little debt as possible. So if you qualify for the Pell Grant, don’t forget to check out other scholarships we offer.

You can always contact us for more information about the Pell Grant and other sources of funding.

Winning with WUE

The Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) is a decades-old program that aims to make colleges such as Portland State, more affordable for nonresidents. Qualifying students pay 150% of in-state tuition. Resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in savings over the course of your degree. And the best part—all students are automatically considered for WUE if they apply to PSU by February 1.

Portland State University is proud to be the only research university in Oregon that participates in the WUE program.

Cost of Annual Tuition and Fees at 15 Credits Per Term (2018-19)

In-State WUE Out-of-State
$9,223 $13,107*  $27,437

*Does not include room and board, books or personal expenses.

What Is It Like Being a WUE Student?

Right now, there are over 2,000 WUE students attending PSU, 1,728 who entered as freshmen and 323 who entered as transfers. Students from almost every WUE locale attend PSU, our largest groups coming from California and Washington. But those are just the numbers. We asked Fernando Gomez, new transfer from Arizona studying film, what his WUE experience has been like.

“I found out about WUE after I was accepted to PSU. I got a call from one of the admissions counselors, who told me I qualified. I’ve always been a full-time student, so it’s necessary for me to find ways to pay for school. I knew I wanted to attend PSU, so WUE was just a bonus!”

Because Portland is a cultural hub, students have easy access to many events. Just hop on the amazing public transit from campus—the Portland Streetcar is free to students—and get anywhere in Portland in no time. “Living on campus puts me right in the center of the city, which makes it possible for me to pursue my passions on and off campus.”

Fernando is excited that WUE is helping him afford college in a city that allows him to work toward his dream career. “The weather is cool, the city is culturally diverse, and it’s cheaper than all the other big cities that would allow me to pursue my film studies.” PSU’s Film Program, the most comprehensive film program in the Northwest, is always pushing Fernando to get involved. “PSU has great equipment available for students. There are also lots of companies in Portland that offer internships to PSU students, so they can get hands-on experience.”

WUE is just the ticket to get the out-of-state college experience without paying those prices.

Eligibility

  1. Apply for fall term by the WUE deadline: February 1 is the deadline for both freshmen and transfer students.
  2. Be a legal resident of one of the following states or territories: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, Guam or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
  3. Meet PSU’s academic requirements for WUE:
    • Freshmen Academic Requirements: 3.5 cumulative unweighted high school GPA or 1270 SAT or 27 ACT composite
    • Transfer Academic Requirements: 3.0 cumulative college GPA

Learn more about WUE

Making Art…Into a Career

Katie sits in the Park Blocks drawing in her sketchbook.

It’s pretty common to hear people say that getting a humanities degree is pointless. Well, Katie Pearce, a transfer student in her senior year studying Graphic Design, is here to tell you that’s wrong.

In her hometown of Pendleton, Oregon, Katie felt there weren’t many opportunities to pursue an art career. “In high school, I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t figure out how to make art into a career choice.” Katie decided to attend Blue Mountain Community College while she was figuring out what she wanted to study. But when it came time for her to transfer her credits to a university and finish her bachelor’s degree, she realized that PSU’s Graphic Design program was the perfect next step.

“When I was in community college, it felt like an extension of high school, but when I got to PSU it felt more like a professional environment that still allowed me to make art.”

So what prompted Katie to commit to studying graphic design? “For me, graphic design is such an important thing. It’s in everything that we do, and if we didn’t have it, we’d notice.”

Katie’s journey to a career in graphic design has been in the works since she was little. “I grew up using technology and am an aesthetically-minded person. I’ve been using Photoshop since I was nine years old, and I never really put it together that this is a skill.”

For Katie, graphic design is that perfect balance between the technical and the artistic. PSU is challenging her to apply those skills in her graphic design coursework. “The portfolio review is something all graphic design students have to pass to advance in the program. You compile eight to ten of your best projects. It’s a good assessment of your skills and forces you to learn to analyze your own work.”

It’s not just the coursework that makes PSU an excellent fit for Katie. “I love that campus is in downtown Portland. There are so many interesting people, and it’s such a lively campus.” The Portland Streetcar runs right through the center of campus, and it’s one of Katie’s favorite parts, “I need to say how much I love the streetcar. I recommend riding it all the way around to see what’s in Portland!” The Portland Streetcar is free to PSU students―just one of many transportation resources that make it cheap and easy to get around the city.

So what is Katie doing to get closer to making a career out of art? “Recently I started a graphic design internship at CD Baby Publishing, a music publisher here in Portland. I’m already getting to use skills I learned in school.”

Katie emphasizes that transferring to PSU was a great decision because, not only is she truly enjoying her coursework, but she has already made connections in her industry. PSU’s location in the heart of Portland gives students access to local companies and opportunities to learn from professionals in their field.

And Katie’s not alone—PSU enrolls around 1,800 transfer students every year! If you’re considering transferring to PSU from a college in Oregon, or even out of state, there are lots of resources available to make completing your degree easy. You may qualify for Transfers Finish Free, a program that covers standard tuition for Oregon residents.

Check out how you can take the leap and transfer to PSU.

Photo of Katie at Be Honest, the PSU Graphic Design student portfolio showcase, standing behind her work.
Photo of Katie at Be Honest, the PSU Graphic Design student portfolio showcase. Check out Katie’s work!

Understanding Financial Aid

Why sugarcoat it? College is expensive and financial aid can be confusing. But rather than thinking of it as an expense, it may more be more useful to think about it as an investment in your future. 

But investments still need funding.

And while PSU is Oregon’s most affordable public university, 60% of PSU students receive some kind of financial aid during their undergrad.

Now is the perfect time to start thinking about financial aid because PSU’s scholarship applications and FAFSA have just opened for the 2019-20 academic year.

So what is financial aid? To put it simply, financial aid is any money not provided by you or your family that helps you pay for college. This money can cover anything from tuition and student fees to housing, food, books and transportation. If you need it to succeed in school, financial aid can cover it.

There are multiple ways to receive financial aid ranging from university scholarships to federal loans, but it all starts with filling out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is your key to making college more affordable. Check out our special blog post dedicated to deciphering the FAFSA for all the details.

Let’s take a closer look at the financial aid offered at Portland State, and what they mean for you.


Scholarships

PSU offers nearly 450 scholarships every year to students from all backgrounds! These scholarships range from awards based on academics to athletics to activism, and they can be used to pay tuition, student fees, housing and much more. Scholarships are not loans, and thus never need to be paid back to the university. It’s essentially free money. You heard that right. Free. Money.

PSU’s General Scholarship Application is due by February 1, so check out our detailed list of all university scholarships. Every scholarship is different, and some require letters of recommendation, writing samples and other supplemental materials, so start the application process early to ensure you will get yours in on time.

There are also a lot of national scholarships not specific to Portland State. For more information on these scholarships, visit the PSU scholarships home page.

Federal Grants

Many universities (PSU included) receive grants from the Federal Government that they can use to help students pay for college. These grants are split up into two categories: need-based and merit-based. Like scholarships, federal grants do not require to be repaid. More. Free. Money.

The most common federal grant is the Pell Grant. Pell Grants are need-based financial awards that are distributed to students based on the information provided in their FAFSA. To be considered for federal grants, you only need to fill out your FAFSA. When your FAFSA information is processed, you will be notified if you are eligible for federal grants. Learn more about federal grants and see the list of awards available.  

Student Loans

Unlike federal grants or scholarships, student loans (from either the federal government or private companies) are expected to be repaid. The amount of student loans you are eligible to receive is based, like all things financial, on the information you provide in your FAFSA.

It is important to only take out loans for what you think you will need, and no more. If you have questions about applying for or accepting student loans, feel free to reach out to the Financial Wellness Center and learn more about their services in our Resource Breakdown. Prospective students and their families are welcome.

You do not pay back student loans while you are a student. Instead, you begin paying for them roughly about six months after the final term you are in school.


Finding out how you are going to pay for college can be a complicated process, but there is a network of support at PSU. Through the Office of Financial Aid and Financial Wellness Center, there are always professionals excited to help you navigate the cost of college.

So feel free to drop by and introduce yourself or shoot us an email. No question is too small, and we want you to succeed.

Browse the PSU Scholarship Database!

Demystifying the FAFSA

Figuring out how you’ll pay for college can be overwhelming. Turns out, there’s a lot of money available for your higher education. The best place to start on your financial aid journey is with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®). It’s best to go straight to the source when you want the facts, so we’ve compiled a few resources from the experts to help you learn more about your financial aid options and get some answers about the FAFSA.

Get an Overview of the FAFSA

The FAFSA Process

Completing the FAFSA is the first step in accessing the more than $150 billion available in federal student aid. To help you with your FAFSA, they have created a handy guide that walks you through each part in the process.

Get More Answers from Federal Student Aid (An Office of the US Department of Education)

To apply for federal student aid, you need to complete the FAFSA. If you’d like more information first, Federal Student Aid can help. Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and quick, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school. In addition, many states and colleges use your FAFSA data to determine your eligibility for state and school aid, and some private financial aid providers may use your FAFSA information to determine whether you qualify for their aid.

Follow Federal Student Aid on Twitter and Facebook to get important updates and answers to frequently asked questions.

Fill out the FAFSA

8 Things to Do to Prepare for a College Fair

Who doesn’t love a fair? I sure do, but I know I’m biased. A college fair is a useful start for considering the next step for your future, but truth be told, a college fair can be overwhelming. There are ways, however, you can prepare for these informative events. These steps will help you get the low-down on colleges that pique your interest and help you make meaningful connections with admissions counselors.

Here are eight things you can do to get the most out of your time at a college fair:

1. Do Your Research

Think about what is most important to you in a college or university beforehand and talk with your family about what qualities would make the best fit. Want to live in the city? Are you interested in an all-star soccer team? Do you have concerns about tuition costs? It may be helpful to make a list and prepare questions you want answered to save time.

2. Get Organized and Prepare Contact Information

Make sure to bring a binder or folder to keep all of your information organized. Our job as admissions counselors is to help guide you through the school selection and application process, so you won’t want to lose the contact information of a school or admissions counselor you really liked. Also, you can save yourself the time and pain of handwriting your contact information on interest cards by preparing a sticky label with your name, contact information, date of birth, and year of graduation. This way we can keep in touch and send you the correct information for application deadlines, upcoming events and important updates specific to you.

3. Keep an Open Mind

Talk to schools you do not know much about and keep an open mind. You may find some schools that you never considered as a choice. There are so many options out there!  I would never have ended up at my Alma mater if I hadn’t been open to changing my original plan.

4. Arrive Early

Come early, check out the scene, and then decide who you are going to talk to. This will give you ample time to assess the scene and get more one-on-one time with counselors, allowing you to meet more people and get more questions answered!

5. Introduce Yourself and Exchange Information

Never be afraid to walk up and introduce yourself—and using firm handshake is always a nice touch! One of the best parts of my job is meeting new people, so let us get to know you. We expect students to ask questions and will need help getting through this process, and it’s our job to help! If you find a college counselor you really like, ask for their business card and give them your information. This shows that you are personable and making an effort to find the best choice for your future college career. Plus, creating a relationship with your admissions counselor early will mean that you’re better prepared and ahead of the game.

6. Ask Questions to Get the Answers You are Looking For

Don’t let us do all the talking. Take the time to think about questions that prompt meaningful information you couldn’t get from a website or brochure. Try asking questions that do not involve a yes or no answer. Also, remember that this is your college experience, so don’t hide behind your parents.

7. Follow-up

Send thank you cards or e-mails with follow up questions. I love hearing from students I meet at college fairs! Putting in that little bit of effort makes you stand out from the crowd. Admissions counselors meet a lot of students, so it makes us more willing to advocate for students we remember well.

8. Take Time to Reflect

Dedicate time after the event to organize your thoughts and contact information. There is a lot of information exchange at college fairs, making it easy to get lost in the shuffle. You can keep track of all this information by making a spreadsheet and ranking your schools by your interest level. This will help you know where to focus your next steps.

PSU Admissions representatives visit high schools, community colleges and participate in college fairs regionally, nationally, and internationally throughout the year.

Select your region and see when a PSU representative will be near you!

Built Around You: PSU’s Rolling Admissions Deadline

Getting sick, landing a new job, moving across the country or even across the street — not everything sticks to a tight schedule.

So why should your college admissions application?

We understand that sometimes life happens, and to accommodate we have a rolling deadline for admission here at PSU. That means that though we have a few firm deadlines — scholarship availability, on-campus housing, and eligibility for WUE, Four Years Free and Transfers Finish Free — applications for admissions are accepted nearly year-round.

Though we have a rolling admissions deadline it’s important to remember that the earlier you apply the more likely you are to get into certain courses and receive PSU-specific scholarships (deadlines for which are always in the fall term).

So, what are the perks of a rolling admissions deadline?

  • You hear back fast. We know how stressful it can be to wait. Our submission window means that before the priority deadlines (Dec. 1 for Freshman and Feb. 1 For Transfers) you’ll hear from us in about two weeks! Even past those deadlines you can expect a response in less than a month. 
  • Always accessible. Our rolling application deadline means that you can apply early or late in the admissions process. Want to apply a year in advance of your start term? Perfect. What about just a few months before? Works for us. All we care about is you applying and getting one step closer to that dream career.
  • Immediate action. A rolling application process means that your applications is looked at as soon as it is received by our admissions team. This means a faster response and an almost immediate notification if your application is missing any components. We want you to have the most possible time to get everything together before any financial aid deadlines.

At PSU, supporting our students and prospective students is the number one priority, and our rolling admissions deadline ensures that applicants have ample time to apply and get into college. You want to make a difference, and our job is to help make that happen.

*Did you know that students interested in transferring to PSU don’t have to finish up their summer term before applying? You can apply while taking classes at another institution and submit transcripts later! Just another way PSU makes applying easy.

Review our admissions requirements and priority deadlines (used for determining financial aid awards) and submit your application today. Or tomorrow. Whenever works for you. But you know what they say, there’s no time like the present.

Being the Most Prepared: Earning College Credit in High School

The Scouts have a motto: Be prepared.

They might not have been thinking about college when they coined that phrase, but we believe it still applies.

There are lots of ways to prepare for college. One that you may be doing already is earning college credit in high school. Whether it’s through AP and IB exams or taking classes at a local community college, taking college-prep courses is a great way to get a jump start on your degree.

Plus, coming in with college credits means you can take more electives and graduate sooner, which means more money saved.

PSU offers multiple different ways to earn college credit during high school:

SAT and ACT scores

While not directly earning college credit, SAT and ACT scores can help certain students’ application in other ways.

  • For international students (for whom ACT and SAT are NOT required), these scores can help them meet the English Language Proficiency Requirement required for class placement.
  • These scores can also help  meet admission requirements in the case of a GPA below our minimum requirement (3.0).

Advanced Placement (AP) Exams

If you have taken AP courses in high school you may be able to earn college credit you can use toward your degree at PSU. If on your AP exam for a given class your score is high enough, you may be eligible for college credit.

AP courses are also a great way to get a preview of the kind of academic rigor and content that you may encounter in your college classes.

To request an official copy of your AP transcripts, visit the College Board website.

International Baccalaureate (IB) Exams

Like AP courses, IB classes are a way that you can both gain collegiate-level academic experience and receive college credit by doing well on IB exams.

Students enrolling at Portland State who earn their IB diploma with a score of 30 or above will receive a total of 45 college credits (!) and sophomore class standing. Review this chart to see how your specific exam scores will transfer to PSU credit.

To request an official copy of your IB transcripts, visit the International Baccalaureate website.

College Level Exam Program (CLEP)

CLEP subject exams, like the more general AP and IB exams, can help you enter your freshman year with college credit, the results of which can be seen in this chart.

If you are interested in taking CLEP exams, it is recommended that you sign up for them one month in advance with Testing Services (part of Student Health and Counseling) or with another recognized CLEP testing center.

To request an official copy of your CLEP transcripts, visit the College Board website.


Earning college credit during high school is an investment in your future. Coming in with college credit means that you are more likely to graduate on time and that means saving money! It also allows you to jump into your major and start learning about the things you are passionate about.

Remember, if you want your college-prep courses to count you must send the appropriate transcripts to the Office of Admissions:

Office of Admissions
Portland State University
PO Box 751
Portland, OR 97207-0751

Learn more about other ways to earn credit at PSU!

The Easiest Way to Save Money: Graduate On Time

We know there’s more than one way to pursue college.

For some, the route leads them right from high school into a four year school. There are also those who enroll in community college with the goal of transferring to finish their bachelor’s degree.

Each path has their pros and cons, but they all share a common goal: getting a bachelor’s degree as fast as possible.

Studies from The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center have shown that students who start at a four-year college as a freshman are more likely to graduate on time.

Here’s what’s so great about graduating in four years:

1.  You also will save money. That same study showed that students who stay in school for more than four years can end up paying up to 40% more. Yikes! Surely transferring from a community college is more economical? Well, it is and it isn’t. Let me explain. Although Oregon Promise, and other state-sponsored programs like it, can help ease the cost of the first two years of your bachelor’s degree at a community college, transfer students tend to fall behind when coming to a four-year university. Sometimes credits don’t transfer over perfectly, or maybe it’s just problems with adjusting to a new school, but it all means taking more time to graduate, and that can cost a lot.

Plus, PSU now offers programs to help you graduate in four years if you enroll as a freshman.

  • Four-Year Degree Guarantee means that, if you meet the eligibility requirements, you will graduate in four years or we will pay for any extra courses you have to take.
  • You could even go to PSU for free. You heard that right. If you are an Oregon resident and you meet the eligibility requirements PSU will pay for your tuition and fees for four years.
  • PSU offers scholarships, work study and financial aid to those who qualify, all of which can help to ease the cost of college.
  • PSU’s Diversity and Multicultural Student Services offer amazing retention programs for students in their first year at PSU to help in the transition from high school to college and they provide scholarships!

    2.  You get to start your career sooner, and start making an impact. Evelynn Moz, a recent PSU graduate, was able to work while attending PSU, knowing that she would still graduate on time. Now she’s ready to take on the world as the International Merchandising Coordinator at Columbia Sportswear.

3.  Getting started at a four years college means you’ll be able to develop relationships early on with our expert faculty and staff. You’ll get to take advantage of our incredible University Studies program which helps you engage in the community and get real-world experience for the start. If you’re interested in joining the Honors College, then doing so as early as possible is the best option. You’ll get the most out of it and have a lot more to show for it when you graduate.

But what about the cost?

Choosing a college is a big choice, we get it, and regardless of where you go, it’s going to be expensive. At PSU though, what you are paying for is an investment, something that will allow you to thrive after you graduate. 

Learn about ways PSU can help you graduate in just four years!

Six Ways to Spend Time Between Classes on Campus

Lab just got out and you have a few hours before your next class. You sit for a minute, check Instagram, think about going home— but no, you think there has to be something fun to do on campus. Well, wonder no longer!

Six Ways to Spend Time Between Classes on Campus


1. The Viking Game Room

Need to kill some time? A place to unwind? How about a game of pool or bowling? (Yes, we have a bowling alley, and yes, it’s awesome.)

Located in the basement of the Smith Memorial Student Union, the Viking Game Room is open everyday of the week and offers a great place for students to relax and have fun.

 

2. Campus Rec

Wanna work up a sweat? Campus Rec has you covered with everything from a gym full of modern workout equipment to multiple climbing walls and even a full-size swimming pool.

Access to Campus Rec is included in your student fees and the multi-story facility is located conviently in the heart of campus.

Feeling competitive? Try PSU’s many rec clubs or intramural sports! With activities ranging from rugby to dodgeball to tango dancing there is sure to be something for everyone.

3. 5th Avenue Cinema

Ok, so maybe you’re still sore from going to Campus Rec the day before and want to take it easy. No problem. Did you know that right on PSU’s campus there is a student-run movie theater that’s free for students?

The 5th Avenue Cinema is Oregon’s only student-run cinema and presents international and domestic cinema year-round. If you weren’t sold already, just know that there is FREE POPCORN at every showing.

Check the screening schedule and other special events.

4. Portland Farmer’s Market

On campus on a saturday? Want to try some of the best food you’ve ever had? Well, you’re in luck because the Portland Farmer’s Market sets up shop right on PSU’s Park Blocks. Get ready to taste some of the most delicious produce you’ll ever eat.

Over 140 vendors come every saturday to sell their wares and every market includes chef demonstrations, kids’ cooking classes, live music and a lineup of food education events. It is not to be missed.

Plus, there’s plenty of free samples, if that’s what you’re into. (And let’s be real, who isn’t.)

5. Live at Lunch Concert Series

Portland is a town that revels in its unique music scene, so it would be remiss if PSU didn’t invite some of that amazing music to perform on campus. Every Tuesday and Thursday from 12-1pm, Live at Lunch presents live music on the PSU Park Blocks (inside SMSU if it’s raining).

With a new artist and musical style at every performance, Live at Lunch brings amazing free concerts to campus that everyone can enjoy.

Check out the lineup for this Spring on the PSU Professional Sound Facebook page.

6. Snag a Quick Bite

20+ food carts, local restaurants and more variety than you can shake a stick at, the truly unique food on campus represent the vibrancy that is Portland’s culinary culture.

Whether it’s Bowery Bagels in the Student Union, Coco Donuts at the Karl Miller Center or pad thai at the food carts across from the Engineering Building, campus has anything you could want to scratch that edible itch.


Now you have no excuse to be bored on campus!