PSU receives grant to re-enroll and support underrepresented students – Portland State University

by Summer Allen September 24, 2021
Portland State has received a $880,146 grant from Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) to support a two-year initiative to re-enroll and support underrepresented students who stopped attending PSU.  
PSU was one of four Oregon institutions to receive a grant from HECC for this Reengagement and Retention Initiative. Money for the grant comes from emergency education funding provided to governors via the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act. 
The purpose of the grant is to help bring back as many students as possible who left PSU, with an emphasis on reengaging BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), first-generation and low-income students. The grant was written in collaboration with the Office of Student Success and Global Diversity & Inclusion. 
“The beauty of this grant is that we have students out there who are so close to finishing,” said Lindsay Romasanta, Assistant Vice President of Global Diversity & Inclusion. “We want them to get connected to faculty, staff, and peers who care about them and want to support their goals and aspirations. We’re trying to ensure that students come back and are connected to holistic, equity-minded support.” 
More than half of the grant’s funding will go directly to support students who stopped attending PSU in the past two years, including $400,000 that will pay for $500 micro grants for about 800 students who re-enroll. 
“Research has shown that financial support in the form of micro grants can absolutely make a difference,” said Andrea Garrity, Senior Project Manager with the Office of Student Success. “Our goal with this program is to give the students agency in how the micro grant is used—whether it be for books, childcare, or for technology. This program will be aligned with an existing program that launched this summer – Finish Line – aimed at not only re-enrolling students but at proactively reaching out to students who have stopped out close to graduation and providing a path to return that includes understanding both their financial and academic options.”
The grant will also support hiring a coordinator to provide culturally relevant outreach to underrepresented students who have left PSU to encourage them to re-enroll. 
Another $75,000 will go to stipends that support what are called “high impact practices” for underrepresented students returning to PSU. High impact practices include study abroad opportunities, internships and undergraduate research experiences. 
Research shows that high impact practices are especially beneficial for BIPOC, first-generation, and low-income students, but many underrepresented students aren’t able to take advantage of these foundational undergraduate experiences. Stipends from this grant will help make high impact practices more accessible to these students. For example, a stipend could be used to support living expenses for a student who normally wouldn’t be able to take time away from work for an unpaid internship. 
“These experiences make a big difference, but diverse college students are less likely to participate in them because of various factors, such as they may be more likely to be working or caretaking,” said Romasanta. “Connections to high impact experiences can pave the way for their next steps beyond the bachelor’s including graduate school or meaningful careers.” 
Additional funding will go to support Multicultural Retention Services and will be used to help fund affinity based support, workshops, peer mentors and advising. The grant will also support a pilot program for men of color.  
Underrepresented students who re-enroll will be set up with advising through Multicultural Retention Services as well as additional services designed to support their return, including connection to a financial wellness coach, academic mentors and career readiness opportunities. 
“We’re looking forward to this work and the partnership and collaboration across units and departments,” said Garrity. “This will allow us to not only re-enroll students but to provide culturally sensitive holistic support and connection from the onset. I’m so grateful to the HECC for this opportunity and truly believe this will make a difference for our students.”
Outside Portland