Portland State University - Colleges of Distinction - Colleges of Distinction
Portland State University
Portland State University is a public research university whose mission is rooted in sustainable...

Portland State University

Portland, Oregon

Portland State University is a public research university whose mission is rooted in sustainable living, accessibility, and community engagement. Its location within the city inspires students to solve problems and promote prosperity within rapidly changing, urban environments.

Student Profile

Fall 2016 Enrollment
19,119 undergraduate students
72% of undergrad students are full time
46% male — 54% female
17.4% of students are from out of state

Faculty Profile

2016-2017 Academic Year
889 full-time faculty
706 part-time faculty
20 to 1 student/faculty ratio

Residence Life

Fall 2016
9% of all students live on campus

High-Impact Practices

Read more about the importance of High-Impact Practices

First-Year Seminars and Experiences X
Common Intellectual Experiences X
Learning Communities X
Writing-Intensive Courses X
Collaborative Assignments and Projects X
Undergraduate Research X
Diversity/Global Learning X
Service Learning, Community-Based Learning X
Internships/Coops/Practicums X
Capstone Courses and Projects/Senior Experience X

Retention Fall 2016

73% of students began in Fall 2015 and returned in Fall 2016 (full time, first time freshmen)


46.5% of students graduated in 6 years


Nonresident aliens 5%
Hispanic/Latino 13%
Black or African American 4%
White 57%
American Indian or Alaska Native 1%
Asian 9%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 1%
Two or more races 6%
Race and/or ethnicity unknown 4%

University Studies Program

The foundation of Portland State’s undergraduate student experience is the four-year, award-winning University Studies Program. Started in 1994, the program has revolutionized general education at PSU, providing students with interdisciplinary, connected learning experiences that lay the groundwork for lifelong learning. In a nutshell, it teaches students how to learn. University Studies brings relevance and meaning to a student’s general education.

Freshman Inquiry

The University Studies Program starts with Freshman Inquiry, a year-long series of interactive courses based around one of ten themes. Recent themes include Design & Society, Power & Imagination, Sustainability, and The Work of Art. Each theme is approached from a variety of different angles that take on life’s big questions and involve students in hands-on activities.

Sophomore Inquiry

The University Studies Program continues the second year with Sophomore Inquiry, which prepares students for upper-division courses and lets them explore topics of interest that are different from, yet complementary to, their majors.

Upper-Division Cluster

Upper-Division Cluster is the third-year segment of the program. Based around the student’s chosen Sophomore Inquiry theme, cluster courses build upon the knowledge and core skills students develop in their first two years.

Senior Capstone

University Studies culminates in the fourth year with the Senior Capstone, which connects the classroom to the community by immersing teams of students in community-based learning projects that address real-world issues. PSU offers more than 200 capstones each year. They have included teaching English as a second language to adults, finding solutions to social justice disparities, working with people with disabilities, and helping design gardens for a women’s prison. In all cases, students are engaged with each other and with the outside world.

Peer Mentors

The program also provides opportunities for student engagement and co-creation in the classroom through its mentoring program. Juniors and seniors also have the opportunity to be peer mentors to students in the Freshman Inquiry courses, providing every student with someone near their age to help them figure out the course and the university. Graduate students can be peer mentors in Sophomore Inquiry. In addition to gaining valuable leadership experience, peer mentors receive awards and stipends, tuition reimbursement, skill training, and professional development.

Activities Offered

Campus Ministries X
Choral groups X
Concert band X
Dance X
Drama/theater X
International Student Organization X
Jazz band X
Literary magazine X
Marching band X
Model UN X
Music ensembles X
Musical theater X
Opera X
Pep band X
Radio station X
Student government X
Student newspaper X
Student-run film society X
Symphony orchestra X
Television station X

Portland State University faculty members are prized for their knowledge, achievements, and meaningful engagement with students. Drawn from academic programs around the world, these professors bring with them a rich diversity of culture and background as well as a commitment to Portland State’s unique approach to education.

Multidisciplinary Education

Faculty in the multidisciplinary University Studies program take students through an educational journey that draws connections between history, art, science, politics, urban planning, and other disciplines. These connections—as well as their application in solving real-world problems—are part of the reason the University Studies program has won awards from numerous organizations, including Council for Higher Education Accreditation, US News & World Report, Corporation for National Service, and the W.K Kellogg Foundation. Portland State was a recipient of the Pew Leadership Award for the Renewal of Undergraduate Education.

A Practical Urban Focus

Engaged professors also provide rigorous instruction and personalized academic support at PSU’s University Honors College, the only urban-focused honors college in the United States.

Guided by PSU’s motto “Let knowledge serve the city,” faculty scholarship and research addresses some of society’s most pressing challenges. Student learning converges with real opportunities, created through community collaborations that faculty facilitate.

Faculty Connections

PSU’s faculty’s expertise also serves the region through partnerships with businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies. Many enjoy a national (even international) profile through leadership positions in academic, professional, and research organizations. Research at PSU has produced a growing number of spinoff companies and patent applications from faculty.

Common Core

Arts/fine arts  
Computer literacy X
English (including composition) X
Foreign languages  
History X
Humanities X
Mathematics X
Philosophy X
Sciences (biological or physical) X
Social science X

Class Size Breakdown

Size 2-9 10-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-99 100+ Total
Number of Classes 159 353 361 324 220 213 51 1681

The Center of the City

Portland State is a vibrant campus located within an equally vibrant city. With some 50 academic buildings, the campus boundaries dovetail almost seamlessly with the rest of downtown. Portland’s bus and light rail lines, as well as its ubiquitous bike paths, give students easy access to the campus and to the surrounding city, which is a magnet for foodies, book store lovers, and microbrew enthusiasts. PSU’s Urban Plaza, occupied by the College of Urban and Public Affairs and the Academic and Student Recreation Center, is Portland’s busiest transit hub.

Community Engagement

One of PSU’s distinguishing features is its engagement with the greater community. Through community-based projects and internships, PSU students live the university’s urban-serving mission. Faculty regularly bring businesses, nonprofits, government, and citizens into their classrooms. Those connections enable students to earn a quality education while learning how to apply it.

Campus Diversity

Portland State boasts the most diverse student population of any public Oregon university. Students of all nationalities, backgrounds, ethnicities, and preferences are welcome, which shows in the many cultural resource centers and student groups on campus.

Campus Housing Options for Undergraduates

Coed dorms X
Men’s dorms  
Women’s dorms  
Apartments for married students X
Apartments for single students X
Special housing for disabled students X
Special housing for international students X
Fraternity/sorority housing X
Cooperative housing X
Theme housing  
Wellness housing  
Other housing options  

Portland State’s University Studies program equips students with the core skills and perspectives to be successful throughout life. These include an ability to communicate effectively, to think creatively and critically, to be curious about the diversity of the human experience, and to wrestle with understandings of ethics and social responsibility. These are the four goals of the University Studies curriculum, and employers report that they desire graduates with mastery in each of these areas.

Senior Capstone

The senior capstone portion of the curriculum takes those skills and applies them in a way no other classroom experience can. PSU believes that giving something back to the community is an important college outcome, and working with community partners is good preparation for citizenship, work, and life.

Professional Connections

PSU has formed strong partnerships with such large players in the business community as Daimler, Nike, and Intel. It is with these connections that students has direct access to life-changing internships as well as promising job prospects after they graduate.

Alumni Across the World

Last year, PSU granted nearly 5,800 degrees, and in previous years has had the largest graduation numbers in Oregon. Portland State has 171,000 alumni throughout the world, and most of them—more than 100,000—live in the Portland metropolitan area.



6,373 Total Applicants
5,699 Total Admissions
1,797 Total Freshmen Enrollment

89.42% of applicants admitted

Admissions Deadlines for 2017-18 Admission

Rolling admission? Yes

Priority date: Jun 1

Admissions Factors

Very Important
Rigor of secondary school record
Academic GPA

Standardized test scores

Freshmen Profile Fall 2016

  25th Percentile 75th Percentile
SAT Critical Reading 470 590
SAT Math 460 570
SAT Writing    
SAT Essay    
ACT Composite 19 25
ACT Math 17 25
ACT English 18 26
ACT Writing    



Expenses In-State Out-of-State
Tuition $5,616 $18,828
Fees $1,317 $1,317
Total $6,933 $20,145
Room and Board (on campus) $12,822 $12,822
Room Only $9,204 $9,204
Board Only $3,618 $3,618
Estimated Total On Campus $19,755 $32,967


Average Financial Aid Packages 2015-2016 FINAL

$9,943 First year students
$5,798 All undergrads

Financial Aid Breakdown 2015-2016 FINAL

52% on average, the percentage of need that was met
40% of financial need students that had need fully met

$5,798 Average need-based scholarship or grant award
$4,188 Average need-based loan