PSU raises record scholarship funds

The Portland State University Foundation announced that it raised $44 million in donations to fund scholarships for a broad variety of academic disciplines.

The sum, collected in the last two years, has greatly exceeded PSU President Wim Wiewel’s expectations, whose goal was to raise $50 million in 3.5 years.

“Donations provide access for the students who come here to stay here, and actually get a degree. And we know that that creates a better society on every single front,” Wiewel said at a reception dinner for donors and scholarship recipients on Tuesday.

Among contributors to the scholarship fund were local businesses like Pizzicato, larger corporations like Intel, David and Christine Vernier, and one anonymous donor who contributed $3 million to the campaign.

Pizzicato’s donation, a pilot program started this year to celebrate their 25th anniversary, will fund the education of 10 of their employees who also go to PSU. Intel will be funding graduated students that wish to return to college for degrees in computer science.

“When we went to a state university, they really were state universities,” said David Vernier, a donator who went to school in Ohio but contributed to the PSU fund. “If you had a part time job or a scholarship, you would never have to hear the words ‘student loan.’”

Over the last four years, PSU’s efforts to gather scholarship donations have been met with much greater success than in previous decades.

“Before 2011, $10,000 was considered a major contribution to PSU,” said Tanya Gross, communications director for the foundation.

Thanks to reorganized campaign efforts, a mini campaign launched by new PSU Foundation directorship, and an emphasis on donors giving funds based on passion, PSU has achieved scholarship amounts more on par with the University of Oregon and Oregon State University, both of which rake in $50–75 million every year.

Sixty percent of our students still need financial aid to attend the university, so we still have a long way to go,” said Francoise Aylmer, president and CEO of the PSU Foundation, at the reception.

“When we launched the mini campaign three years ago, we asked donors to give to the school for reasons of passion and not merely to receive a financial return,” Aylmer added in a later interview.

Since that campaign, individual distribution of scholarships to students rose from 576 in 2011 to over a thousand in 2013. She expressed her optimism about future campaigns.

“Once donors see that large contributions are already being made to PSU, they will be more eager to give themselves,” Aylmer said. “But to show PSU, and the world, that we are worthy of large donations, we have to get those donations first.”