In-person instruction will resume this fall

Portland State administration announced on Jan. 27 that campus will be reopening for in-person instruction in the fall. Additionally, the administration is making adjustments to enrollment requirements in order to bolster enrollment and student success. 


The application fee for incoming undergraduate students will be temporarily eliminated and the minimum GPA requirement for incoming students will be lowered starting on Feb. 2. These changes are a part of PSU’s “Open for Fall, Open for All” initiative.


“[PSU] is announcing today our COVID relief package,” PSU Provost Susan Jeffords said in a video released on Jan. 26. “PSU is committed to helping by easing these major concerns: getting into college, succeeding on campus, and achieving a college degree. This fall, all of us at [PSU] are looking forward to being safely back on campus, and we’re removing barriers for anyone who wants to make higher education a part of their own personal recovery plan.”


“We also understand that a highschool GPA isn’t the only way to measure future success, especially during the pandemic,” Jeffords continued. “For the next three years, we’re pledging to reduce the minimum GPA requirement, making college truly achievable. This is the right thing to do as we work to align our equity goals with PSU’s access mission.”


Additionally, “Open for Fall, Open for All” will create a new summer bridge program for selected incoming highschool students to help acclimate them to the college environment. The initiative will also expand eligibility for the Four Years Free program and create more affordable on-campus housing for selected students. 


“More than eliminating barriers to entry, PSU wants to make sure that every single student is successful once they’re here,” Jeffords said. “To help with that, we’re offering a free summer bridge program for selected students. It will serve as an introduction to higher-education, and is designed to give students the knowledge and context to do well in their coursework when they get started in the fall.” 


“This is our COVID relief package,” she stated.


The university will continue to operate primarily remotely over the spring and summer, according to PSU President Stephen Percy. 


“For Spring 2021, we will continue with primarily remote instruction at PSU and anticipate continuing to be mostly remote through the summer term,” Percy wrote in an email. “We have every expectation that widespread vaccinations will cause infection rates to decline significantly over the summer, making it safe for us to resume in-person learning in the fall. Accordingly, PSU is planning for a return to primarily in-person instruction for Fall 2021. We are grateful for the continued partnership with the unions as we prepare for a safe return to campus in the fall. Just as we did prior to the pandemic, we will continue to offer an array of online courses and programs.” 


“In close collaboration with our public health partners and union colleagues, we expect to lay out in the coming months how we plan to bring employees—and eventually, students—safely back to campus,” Percy stated. “Our fall 2021 plans will follow public health guidance for social distancing, gathering size, mask-wearing, airflow, and additional safety measures.”


The “Open for Fall, Open for All” initiative addresses an ongoing budget crisis the university is experiencing due to the pandemic. Early enrollment numbers are lower than anticipated for incoming freshmen for the fall term, exacerbating the issue. In order to beat the crisis, the university needs to increase enrollment and create new forms of revenue, according to Percy. 


“Like other universities, we have experienced a decline in enrollment that is forecast to continue next year, posing serious budgetary challenges as we look ahead,” Percy continued. “We will have much more information to share soon about our budget picture, and our intention is to be transparent during this entire process.” 


Despite the many ongoing challenges wrought by the pandemic, both Percy and Jeffords remain optimistic. 


“As we emerge from this challenging time, I am encouraged by many of the early executive orders from President Biden’s administration that protect our public health, advance racial equity, preserve and strengthen protections for our Dreamer students, reverse the Muslim ban, and prevent discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation,” Percy stated. “We are on the cusp of recovery—for our nation, our community, and for our students—and PSU is ready to fuel that recovery, creating a more equitable and sustainable future for everyone.”


“As [PSU] marks our 75th anniversary this year, we’re celebrating not only our history of resilience, but our lasting commitment to putting students first,” Jeffords said. “As we work to safely reopen our classrooms for in-person instruction in the fall, we want to make sure that all Oregonians have a chance to join us. We pledge to help students with their mission at PSU, and to give them all the support they need to thrive once they get here.”


In addition to reopening in the fall, PSU also intends to become a vaccine distribution site through the Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC), which will be critical in PSU’s reopening plans, according to Percy. 


“While we do not control the supply of vaccines or decide which groups of Oregonians receive them first, we are strongly advocating for students, staff and faculty in higher education to be included among the groups being prioritized for access to vaccines,” Percy stated. “PSU has not had a single reported case connected to in-person instruction on our campus. As we work to safely reopen, we will build upon the policies, practices and protocols that have allowed residents of student housing, researchers and employees in essential positions to live, learn and work safely on campus the last several months.”


Additional information about the “Open for Fall, Open for All” initiative will be provided over the coming months, according to Percy and Jeffords.