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Portland State University officials say a growing percentage of its freshmen are now first-time and full-time students since beginning its tuition-free program to eligible high school graduates.

COURTESY: PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY - Portland State University is seeing more full-time freshmen as a result of its Four Years Free program. Portland State University's Four Years Free program is being credited with a jump in freshman class enrollment this year.

The university reported Monday that it now has 27,305 students, about the same as last year. But that includes 2,015 freshmen, an 8 percent jump from its previous record in 2015.

More of those freshmen are also first-time and full-time resident freshmen, a shift in demographics for the urban university with a large commuter, part-time and older student population. The university figures show 26.5 percent more freshmen — 1,216 total — are now this more traditional type of college student.

The Four Years Free program was announced in the wake of the 2015 Oregon Promise legislation that made community college largely free for some Oregon high school graduates.

The PSU program has 494 freshmen this fall in its program. The tuition and fees are fully covered — though students are responsible for living costs and other neccessary expenses — through offsets with the federal Pell grants and state grants. Students must be Oregon residents, Oregon high school graduates with good grades and willing to enroll full-time for four years.

The new enrollment figures mean PSU is still the second-biggest university in the state.

University of Oregon's latest reported figures show 23,634 total students. Oregon State University is the largest in the state with 31,303 enrolled. Many Beavers students take classes online or outside of the main Corvallis campus.

Overall figures for Portland State University are down from a few years ago. This is likely due to a recession-era boom in higher education as many decided to retrain or advance in their careers in the absence of a good job market. Graduate-level enrollment at PSU is down significantly from 2010, from 7,112 to 5,901 last year. However, enrollment at OSU during the same period continues to climb, which is largely credited to its Ecampus online courses.

PSU is also seeing significantly more Hispanic students. There are now 3,437 Hispanic students at PSU, a 12 percent increase from last year.

The largest university in the country, according to PrepScholar.com, is the University of Central Florida with a total of 64,335 students.


Shasta Kearns Moore
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