Classism at Portland State

Tuition at Portland State University is expensive compared to other state colleges. Well, it is for undergraduates, anyway. The average cost for a full-time resident undergraduate is just under $5,000 for a term.

Tuition at Portland State University is expensive compared to other state colleges. Well, it is for undergraduates, anyway. The average cost for a full-time resident undergraduate is just under $5,000 for a term. The cost is closer to $7,300 at Oregon State University—for three terms.

Graduate students do pay more than undergraduates, of course. Approximately two-and-a-half times more at PSU. However, this is actually less expensive than Oregon State University, which charges graduate students about $11,300 per year.

Graduate school tuition really seems rather cheap here at Portland State—until we stop to think about what we’re paying two-and-a-half times more in tuition for. Sure, the professors are good, sometimes even excellent. I have no real complaint there. The university offers a decent amount of extracurricular activities, so I’m content there, too. The classes are where I start feeling a bit tightfisted.

I’ve been going to Portland State University for a while. I have obtained two undergraduate degrees and have recently started a graduate program, and I estimate that 90 percent of the classes that I’ve taken were mixed class. Oh, calm down, I’m not being classist, well, not in the generally understood sense of the word. What I am saying is that as an undergraduate I had graduate classmates, and vice-versa now as a graduate student. We’re taking the same exact courses, for the most part.

Not to whine, but well, I’m kind of going to.

For the most part, undergraduates and graduates taking the same classes are being taught the same information. Granted, there is usually some sort of extra project or paper required of the graduate students. My question is: Why am I paying two-and-a-half times more to do a little more work? Does it really take the professor that much more time to grade these projects and papers to justify the higher cost of tuition? After all, they’re not really teaching anything more to the graduates than the undergraduates.

Then there’s the issue of how these mixed-class classes are influencing the educations of master’s and Ph.D. students. It might be great for the juniors and seniors to be in the same educational environment as graduate-level students, but I’m not sure the benefit goes both ways. Sometimes the graduate students end up carrying the bulk of group projects because the work is too advanced for lower-class teammates, or to be honest, sometimes undergraduates just aren’t as invested in college as master’s and PhD students are.

As an undergraduate, I vividly remember thinking that having to do the extra projects would really suck; however, now that I’m doing the extra projects and papers as a graduate student, I’m questioning the validity of this method. And let’s be clear that I still think that having to do the extra projects sucks. It’s mostly busy work that I have to find time to fit in with the rest of the requirements of the class, for which we often receive very little instruction. Of course, many graduate-level students make a grand effort to impress their professors with the quality of these projects and papers, and perhaps that is worth something. Yet again, why am I paying more to merely do more work?

A question we should all be asking is whether our educations are going to be as useful and respected in the real world as they would have been if we had received our degrees at a different university. In essence, many 500-level classes are no different than 400-level classes. Are we, as graduate students, receiving token degrees? Is this why PSU charges less than other state universities for their graduate programs?

From what I’ve overheard some instructors saying, this could be the case. Many professors have complained that the university directors have forced them to accept undergraduates into their classes. If you ask me, it is merely because the university wants to make more money by having larger classes. To do this requires accepting undergraduates into what would have otherwise been graduate classes. Does this mean that the 400-level students received a 500-level education, or did the professor alter their lesson plans so as not to overwhelm these students? Either way, someone is getting short-changed.

I’m not really complaining about the quality of the education I’m receiving, but it seems like something is a little off about this situation. Perhaps undergraduates shouldn’t have to do as much work if, in fact, the mixed classes are at graduate level. If the mixed classes are not graduate level, then (and I can’t believe I’m suggesting this) an extra project or paper does not improve the quality of the education enough to justify granting a graduate-level grade, and something should be done. What? I don’t know.

However, I certainly shouldn’t have to pay two-and-a-half times more tuition that my fellow undergraduate classmates are paying. ?