PSU continues to grow and diversify

According to the “PSU Factbook,” recently released by the Institute for Research and Planning for fall 2000, PSU’s total enrollment was the largest the school has ever seen. Ethnic minorities increased and PSU held steady in the top three state colleges in terms of total students. However, the university is still largely white, a prospect that can be daunting for potential minority students.

At 17,241 students, PSU is second in state college enrollment only to the University of Oregon with 17,843 students. OSU comes in a close third with 16,788 students for fall 2000. The PSU figure is a 7.5 percent increase from last year and reflects a steady increase in enrollment since 1995, where enrollment had reached a plateau around 14,500 since the late 1980s.

Enrollment at PSU peaks on about a 10-year cycle. The number of students reached new heights in 1979, 1988, briefly in 1992 and then in 2000. Those peaks correspond loosely to booms in the economy, when more people can afford to go to college.

The typical freshman at PSU is a 19-year-old directly from high school (77 percent). She outnumbers her male peers slightly (52.1 percent female), is either white (63.3 percent) or Asian (15.4 percent) and pays resident tuition (77.4 percent). She is a full-time student (81.3 percent) and is most likely to be a foreign language major.

Of the over 17,000 students at PSU, the majority are female. Since 1975 the percentage of female students has steadily increased every year, and 1977 was the last year that males outnumbered females. This year, 56.7 percent of enrolled students are female. And the domination is not age-specific – in all age groups from 18 to 65 and up, females were in the majority.

The average age of an undergraduate PSU student is 25, higher than other state universities and reflecting the more diverse range of people who enroll at PSU at non-traditional times. The average age of a graduate student is 34.

Portland State has a mix of many different ethnic groups and languages, but the majority of people (67.5 percent) still identify themselves as “white, non-Hispanic,” covering large parts of North America and Europe. Asians form the largest minority group at 8.6 percent, followed by international students, or those holding non-immigrant Visas (5.6 percent), blacks (2.8 percent) and Hispanics (3.7 percent). Native Americans (1.1 percent) and people who identify with multiple ethnicities (0.9 percent) round out the bottom of the spectrum.

The 2000 Oregon Census highly touted an increase in the Hispanic population of Oregon and minorities in general, but minority enrollment at state colleges still remains low. Various explanations for the low turnout include language barriers, financial difficulties and feelings of isolation at largely white, English-speaking universities. PSU has been attempting to increase minority enrollment in a variety of ways, including offering certificate programs in Black Studies and Chicano/Latino Studies and increasing support programs such as tutoring and ESL classes. However, enrollment in those certificate programs has not caused a great leap in the presence of minorities, and more broad-based ideas will be needed before PSU will see a significant rise in diverse ethnic enrollment.

PSU’s Office of Institutional Research and Planning has compiled a fact book for Fall Term 2000 containing all sorts of information on the demographics of PSU. The Population Research Center also helped compile information on Oregon’s 2000 Census. For more information on PSU’s population, contact the IRP office at (503) 725-3432 or the Population Research Center at (503) 725-5101.