Portland State University is a large urban university that occupies a big portion of the southern section of Downtown Portland, Oregon. Although its impact on the landscape of Portland is hard to miss, its educational reputation is often downplayed, making it the redheaded stepchild of the Oregon educational system. Despite being perhaps the largest university in Oregon, its status as a commuter school often makes people overlook it in favor of University of Oregon and Oregon State University.
The school begin as an extension center serving the city of Vanport in 1946, Vanport itself has an interesting history, being built as a city to house workers during World War II. Vanport was the home of Portland's African American population, and was forcible desegregated when the whole thing was washed away in a great flood.When the school moved to downtown Portland, to the former site of Lincoln High School, it was still a vocational training center. However, as the years went by, it became a full fledged university, adding bachelor's degrees in 1955, a master's in 1961 and doctoral studies in 1968.
Along with its undergraduate program, the university has graduate schools of politics, education, business and computer science, amongst others. According to the PSU website, the school confers more degrees and serves more students than any other Oregon university.
However, the university doesn't not enjoy the reputation it possibly should. Many of the students are part time, older, or otherwise employed. There are no dorms on campus, although there is some subsidized housing for students. The campus, which is built mostly around the South Park Blocks, is a collection of buildings built and acquired over time, with some classes taking place in buildings around downtown that are not actually part of the University. For all of these reasons, and perhaps because of its general unpretentiousness, the school is often seen as a step below the other Oregon universities.
Despite being a commuter university that some students might not feel much involvement, there is still a good amount of heartfelt controversy on campus. One of the biggest political issues currently is the University Studies program, which requires students to take a number of required courses that many students and professors feel are overly fuzzy, and some students feel is leftist propaganda. This aside, PSU is a good place to get a quality college education cheap and without the frills.