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.


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!

Resource Breakdown: Financial Wellness Center

It’s no secret, college costs a lot of money, and money can be a difficult subject to talk about.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Enter the Financial Wellness Center (FWC), a new resource on campus aimed at helping students manage and budget their money so that they can get the most out of their time here at Portland State.

The FWC has found that students often have problems talking about money, and, as a result, are unprepared when bills start rolling in. “Money has become a pretty uncomfortable subject,” says Wellness Coach Rosaline Prentice. The goal of the FWC is the create an environment where students can talk candidly about money, so that they can be proactive with their finances. “We really want to be seen as an ally to students, as someone who can work alongside them.”

This approach has been resonating with students who appreciate the transparent and collaborative aspects of the Center.

“Yeah, there’s no judgement here,” says Wellness Coach Shawna Jefferson. “We are definitely focused on people over policy.”

This policy must be working, because in addition to new students coming in everyday, the FWC is seeing a lot of returning students. And it’s not just incoming freshman who come to the Center for advice. Parents, transfer students, and even graduating seniors visit the Center. As Wellness Coach April Duval says, “the Financial Wellness Center is for everybody.”

The Center gets some students in the midst of financial crisis, but they want to Center to serve as a resource for students, to facilitate a more proactive approach to budgeting for their education, a resource Center Manager Shawna Chambers says wasn’t present before the FWC opened this Fall.

“We really weren’t being very proactive in that regard.” Chambers echoes student concerns about University finances being intimidating. She realized that the best way to assist students was to open a service-oriented space that was more personal. “We wanted to shake the idea of the university being a bill collector and really help address the needs of students.”

PSU is the only university in Oregon operating a resource like this out of the University’s business office, which speaks to the transparent stance the Center wants to take on money. “It’s really all about education,” says Chambers. Plus, scheduling a visit is totally free, and that can fit into anyone’s budget.

To learn more about the Financial Wellness Center and schedule an appointment, visit: https://www.pdx.edu/financial-services/financial-wellness-center

If you want to learn more about this amazing resource on campus, contact the Center by email at: FWC@pdx.edu

Or call them directly at: 503-725-3440