In October, Portland State announced its new “Four Years Free” program, allowing Oregon residents who meet certain requirements to attend PSU tuition free after state and federal grants are applied.
Beginning September 2017, qualifying students will no longer have to worry about paying for tuition or mandatory fees, allowing them to obtain the same education that many in the U.S. struggle to obtain.
Fear of student loans is a large reason why many young adults choose not to attend college, as Shannon Carr, PSU’s director of admissions stated in the initial promotional video for the program.
“Students are saying now that they don’t really want to graduate from college with a lot of student loan debt,” said Lori Butler, Cleveland High School guidance counselor.
Sarah Paquette, PSU senior psychology major, said she was previously unaware of the program and has mixed feelings about it. “I am conflicted, to be honest,” Paquette said. “I think it’s wonderful that incoming freshman will have the chance for college to be more accessible.”
Patrick Isles, PSU senior history major, had only heard of the program through the radio and has a different point of view. “As an in-state student, I think the program is great,” Isles said. “Though at the same time, the school also needs to support living expenses.”
Both Paquette and Isles agreed that the “Four Years Free” program may lead to a decrease in morale among current students. Paquette believes it could leave students who just missed the mark to qualify for the program feeling inadequate in comparison to qualifying freshman. Isles said he believes it may even create an element of snobbery.
The informational web page for the “Four Years Free” program advertises no strings attached—when they say “Four Years Free,” they mean it. As long as participating students maintain a 2.0 cumulative GPA, Pell Grant eligibility, and complete their federal financial aid applications each year by February 1, they may continue to receive program benefits up to 12 consecutive terms.
Federal Student Aid, an office of the United States Department of Education, has an informative guide to help students properly complete their FAFSA applications.