Virtual Impressions: University of Portland
The University of Portland (UP) was added to my virtual journey at the request of college advisors on the West Coast. One thing I never knew: this school was formerly known as Columbia University. There’s even more about UP to know. So take a look at the campus on Pinterest, then read on!
If you have watched the television series Portlandia, you might think that Portland, Oregon is a liberal college town. But this city of over 650,000 people has few colleges. Portland State has 21,000 undergrads, but it’s a commuter school. Reed College, one of America’s Colleges That Change Lives, is a small liberal arts school. The University of Portland, however, can be called the Notre Dame of the Pacific Northwest.
UP is one of six sister schools to Notre Dame in the Congregation of the Holy Cross. But it is much smaller, with 3,800 undergrads. UP does not play football, but like Notre Dame, but it competes in NCAA D-1 athletics. Soccer star and Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year, Megan Rapinoe, is the most famous athletic alum. Like Notre Dame, UP is also a residential school. Over half of the student body, including 95 percent of the freshman, live on campus. And, like Notre Dame, UP has neither fraternities nor sororities. Also like Noter Dame, UP welcomes students of all faiths. But when you look around this campus, even in videos, it’s you are oft reminded that UP is a Catholic school.
The UP campus, which you saw on Pinterest. shows nicely on a drone flight, and also in the snow. It reminds me of the University of Scranton, a Jesuit school that I have visited twice. Short videos highlight modern architecture and interiors on campus as well as bland facades from the 1950s or 1960s. Dundon Berchtold Hall, the newest building, opened this past fall at the center of campus. But I could not see how the school used the riverfront to enhance the campus. It did not seem easy to get into the city from campus, unless I had access to a car. The MAX light rail system does not stop near campus, but you can take buses downtown. Want to get away? Mt. Hood is an hour from campus, the Oregon Coast 90 minutes, if you can get a ride
Freshmen on campus live in doubles or quad rooms. I’m not in love with the idea of triples or quads at a private college this size. It’s hard enough to live with one roommate if you have had your own room at home. But the rooms and lounges have nice furniture. A friend who runs student affairs at a larger school tells me: “give the students nice things. They’ll respect them.” UP seems to follow that philosophy.
Like the campus life, the academic options at the University of Portland reminded me of the University of Scranton. The selection of majors and minors in Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Engineering and Nursing is quite similar to that school. There are also centers for ethics, faith and leadership. UPs Core Curriculum focuses on similar big questions and requires courses in Philosophy and Theology. Theology courses lean towards Christianity, though the school welcomes all faiths. The World Citizen Certificate is unique to UP, structured to fit into every major. Arts and Science, Business, Education and Nursing students can be Sojouner Scholars.
UP is test-mandatory, but not exceptionally selective. Sixty-one percent of the students who applied to join this year’s freshman class got in. The university also admitted over 160 applicants off the wait list. A 3.6 GPA, 1250 SAT or 26 ACT is average for a freshman class. Admissions appear less competitive than they are for West Coast Conference rivals Loyola Marymount, San Diego and Santa Clara. But while UP’s alumni base is strong in Portland and Seattle, it’s really thin after that. There are fewer than 1,000 alumni based in/around San Francisco registered in LinkedIn.com, and just over 500 from the Los Angeles metro area.
But UP might also be less expensive than those California schools. Over a third of the freshmen received merit scholarships that averaged almost half of tuition and fees. Next year the estimated total cost of attendance will be $67,300. The average merit scholarship could reduce their costs below the non-resident charges at the University of Oregon. But among the members of class that just graduated last spring, those in debt borrowed an average of $32,000. That’s $5,000 more than the maximum they could borrow under the Federal Student Loan Program.
UP has dramatically improved its retention and graduation rates since 2000. That year 83 percent of the freshman class returned for their sophomore year. Twenty years later, 90 percent of the freshmen came back. Four-year graduation rates rose from 68 percent for the freshmen who arrived in 2000 to 81 percent for the class that entered in 2015. These rates improved as enrollment increased from 3,300 to 3,800 students.
In conclusion, the University of Portland reminded me most of the University of Scranton for the academics and the campus setting. It also made me think of Loyola-Maryland and Saint Joseph’s University (PA), two other East Coast Jesuit schools. That’s a good thing; these regional schools work hard to attract, retain and graduate very similar students. UP does a little better at helping them finish in four years. But major difference between UP and these East Coast schools was the City of Portland. If you come to love the city, you might never leave.
Listen to my talk, What Exactly Is a Good College? hosted by test-prep experts Amy Seeley and Mike Bergin on Tests And The Rest!
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