The Portland metropolitan area is home to more than a dozen colleges and universities, five community college systems, and a dazzling number of specialized degree-granting (and non–degree-granting) institutions.
Nineteen of Oregon’s accredited, not-for-profit private colleges and universities belong to or are affiliated with the Alliance of Oregon Independent Colleges and Universities; the association’s website (oaicu.org) includes school profiles and general information about attending a private college. Of the seven institutions that constitute the public Oregon University System (ous.edu), only one—Portland State University—is based in Portland. (Oregon Health & Science University [OHSU], also in Portland, is an OUS affiliate.) The system’s flagship campuses, University of Oregon (in Eugene) and Oregon State University (in Corvallis), while not within reasonable commuting distance of Portland, have tens of thousands of alumni in the area and offer lectures, professional courses, and extension courses through local satellite centers (503-412-3696, pdx.uoregon.edu, and 503-553-3400, oregonstate.edu/portlandmetro/, respectively). The Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT) has a Wilsonville campus, and Washington State University has a campus in Vancouver. Addresses below are in Oregon unless otherwise noted.
Reduced Out-of-State Tuition Options
Unlike some states, Oregon and Washington do not have a full reciprocity agreement that allows residents of one state to attend public colleges or universities in the other state at a reduced tuition rate. However, residents of certain “border” counties in Oregon (including Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, and Columbia Counties) are eligible to pay resident tuition rates at Washington State University–Vancouver for course loads of eight credits or less. Similarly, residents of “border” counties in Washington (including Clark County) are eligible to pay resident tuition at Portland State University (for course loads of eight credits or less) at certain OHSU programs, and the OIT Wilsonville campus. Residents of either state qualify for resident tuition status at some of the other state’s community colleges.
The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) manages student exchange programs for 15 western states, including Washington and Oregon. Washington and Oregon residents may qualify for resident or reduced nonresident tuition at certain programs in certain institutions in other WICHE states. A complete description of the various exchange programs and their (fairly complex) rules is available on the WICHE website (wiche.edu/StudentExchange).
Saving for College
Oregon taxpayers who have pre–college-age children may be interested in Oregon’s 529 college savings plans. These plans allow individuals to open special accounts to invest for college; earnings are exempt from state and federal tax, as are withdrawals for qualified educational purposes (tuition, room and board, supplies, etc.). Money in a 529 plan can be used at practically any college or university in the country, not just at Oregon institutions. In addition, contributions to an Oregon 529 plan are deductible on Oregon state tax returns; for tax year 2014, joint filers may deduct up to $4,530, and others may deduct up to $2,265 per year. These amounts are indexed for inflation and should rise each year. (Note that the tax deduction is also available to Washington residents who work in Oregon and pay Oregon income taxes.) Further information is available from the Oregon 529 College Savings Network (oregon529network.com).
Oregon’s 529 plan received some bad press a few years ago when its supposedly ultra-conservative bond portfolios suffered huge losses. Funny story—it turns out the outside fund manager invested the funds not in bonds, but in toxic derivatives, credit default swaps, and other investments of questionable wisdom. The state sued the manager, and a different money manager is now in charge.
Washington does not have a college savings plan, but it does have a Guaranteed Education Tuition program (get.wa.gov), which is essentially a tax-advantaged prepaid tuition plan. Washington residents (and Oregon residents) are generally eligible to contribute to 529 plans run by other states. For more information on other states’ 529 plans, visit savingforcollege.com or collegesavings.org.
Portland-Area Universities and Colleges
- Concordia University, 2811 NE Holman St, Portland, 97211, 503-288-9371, 800-321-9371, cu-portland.edu; a private Lutheran college, Concordia University, part of the national Concordia University System, offers degrees in arts and sciences, education, management, and theology. Enrollment: about 3,100.
- Corban University, 5000 Deer Park Drive SE, Salem, 97317, 503-581-8600, corban.edu; this private Christian college in Salem offers more than 50 undergraduate majors, as well as graduate programs in education, business administration, and counseling. Enrollment: about 1,100.
- George Fox University, 414 N Meridian St, Newberg, 97132, 503-538-8383, 800-765-4369, georgefox.edu; founded by Quakers in 1891, this private Christian university offers more than 50 undergraduate, graduate, and seminary degree programs at its residential campus in Newberg (southwest of Portland) and at satellite campuses in Portland, Salem, and Redmond (Central Oregon). Enrollment: about 3,500.
- Lewis and Clark College, 0615 SW Palatine Hill Rd, Portland, 97219, 503-768-7040, 800-444-4111, lclark.edu; this private liberal arts college with an excellent national reputation occupies a rolling, wooded campus in the hills of Southwest Portland. In addition to its College of Arts and Sciences, Lewis and Clark is home to a Graduate School of Education and Counseling and to one of Oregon’s three law schools, which has a renowned environmental law program. Enrollment: about 3,700.
- Linfield College, 900 SE Baker St, McMinnville, 97128, 800-640-2287, linfield.edu; a Baptist liberal arts college, Linfield is located in the small city of McMinnville, about 45 minutes southwest of Portland. Enrollment: about 2,600.
- Marylhurst University, 17600 Pacific Hwy (Hwy 43), Marylhurst, 97036, 503-636-8141, 800-634-9982, marylhurst.edu; this coeducational Catholic university in Portland’s southern suburbs (between Lake Oswego and West Linn) serves working adults who want to earn an undergraduate or graduate degree or professional certification but require a flexible timetable. Marylhurst is known for its small class sizes, generous credits for life experience, and distance learning options. Enrollment: about 1,600.
- Multnomah University, 8435 NE Glisan St, 97220, 877-251-6560, multnomah.edu; formerly Multnomah Bible College, Multnomah University focuses on bible studies, and also offers master’s degrees in divinity. Enrollment: about 900.
- Oregon College of Art and Craft, 8425 SW Barnes Rd, Portland, 97225, 503-297-5544, 800-390-0632, ocac.edu; this small art college offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in craft-related disciplines. Enrollment: about 180.
- Oregon Health & Science University, 3181 SW Sam Jackson Park Rd, Portland, 97239, 503-494-8311, ohsu.edu; this gleaming complex of hospitals, research laboratories, clinics, and classrooms perches atop Marquam Hill just south of downtown Portland, and is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks (especially at night, when it blazes with light). OHSU comprises medical, dental, and nursing schools, as well as a science and engineering graduate school located on a separate campus in Beaverton. Enrollment: about 2,800.
- Oregon Institute of Technology, Wilsonville, 27500 SW Parkway Ave, Wilsonville, 97070, 503-821-1250, oit.edu/wilsonville; OIT, also known as Oregon Tech, has its main campus in Klamath Falls, in southern Oregon. The small Wilsonville campus offers degree programs in certain engineering and information technology fields. Enrollment: about 4,100 (all campuses)
- Pacific Northwest College of Art, 1241 NW Johnson St., Portland, 97209, 503-226-4391, pnca.edu; located in the heart of the trendy Pearl District, PNCA offers B.F.A. and M.F.A. degrees in several art-related majors, including painting, photography, and communication design, and also runs continuing education and certificate programs. Enrollment: about 600.
- Pacific University, 2043 College Way, Forest Grove, 97116, 503-352-6151, 877-722-8648, pacificu.edu; Pacific University, one of the state’s oldest post-secondary institutions, has an extensive and beautiful campus in the western suburb of Forest Grove. The school offers degrees in dozens of undergraduate majors, as well as graduate degrees in education, optometry, pharmacy, and several other disciplines. Enrollment: about 3,500.
- Portland State University, P.O. Box 751, Portland, 97207, 503-725-3000, 800-547-8887, pdx.edu; PSU, which anchors the southern end of downtown Portland’s Park Blocks, boasts the largest overall college or university enrollment in Oregon. Largely a commuter school, PSU offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate programs at several different schools and colleges, ranging from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to the nationally known College of Urban and Public Affairs. PSU also offers extension and continuing education classes to the community at large. Enrollment: about 30,000.
- Reed College, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd, Portland, 97202, 503-771-1112, reed.edu; Reed, regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country, has a reputation for both academic rigor and social permissiveness. (Some locals refer to Reed, perhaps enviously, as a 4.0 party school.) The school occupies a lovely residential campus, complete with canyon and ivy-clad brick buildings, in Southeast Portland. Enrollment: about 1,400.
- University of Portland, 5000 N Willamette Blvd, Portland, 97203, 503-943-7147, up.edu; this large Catholic institution, which sits atop a bluff overlooking the Willamette River in North Portland, is consistently ranked among the top regional universities in the West. In addition to its College of Arts & Sciences, which offers dozens of possible undergraduate and graduate degrees, the university has schools of nursing, education, engineering, and business administration. Enrollment: about 3,900.
- Warner Pacific College, 2219 SE 68th Ave, Portland, 97215, 503-517-1000, warnerpacific.edu; this small Christian liberal arts college is located on the south slope of Mount Tabor in Southeast Portland; Warner Pacific also offers master’s programs in management and organizational leadership, education, and religion. Enrollment: about 1,600.
- Washington State University–Vancouver, 14204 NE Salmon Creek Ave, Vancouver, WA 98686, 360-546-9788, vancouver.wsu.edu; this young, relatively small branch of the state’s land grant university offers 20 different undergraduate degrees and 11 graduate degrees; it occupies a sprawling new campus in outer northeast Vancouver. Enrollment: about 3,000.
- Willamette University, 900 State St, Salem, 97301, 503-370-6300, willamette.edu; founded in 1842 (and thus the oldest college in the western United States), Willamette is located in Salem, about an hour south of Portland; although primarily a liberal arts college, it has graduate schools of management and education and is home to one of Oregon’s three law schools. Enrollment: about 2,700.
Area Community Colleges
These community colleges offer two-year degrees and collectively serve tens of thousands of students in the Portland region. They also offer a wide range of adult education and special-interest courses to local residents.
- Chemeketa Community College, Salem, 503-399-5000, chemeketa.edu, is the community college for Salem and the mid–Willamette Valley (including Marion County and much of Yamhill County).
- Clackamas Community College, Oregon City, 503-594-6000, clackamas.edu, serves most of the populated portions of Clackamas County (except Lake Oswego, Boring, Damascus, and Sandy); there are satellite campuses in Harmony (Clackamas Town Center) and Wilsonville, and extension classes are offered in Canby, Estacada, and Molalla.
- Clark College, Vancouver, 360-699-6398, clark.edu, serves Vancouver and Clark County, Washington; the main campus is near downtown Vancouver, with a satellite campus at the Columbia Tech Center in eastern Vancouver. Some classes are held at WSU–Vancouver and at Town Plaza on East Mill Plain Blvd.
- Mt. Hood Community College, Gresham, 503-491-6422, mhcc.edu, has a vast district that covers eastern Multnomah County (including outer Northeast Portland) and parts of Clackamas County from Damascus and Boring to the summit of Mount Hood; the main campus in Gresham has a satellite in Northeast Portland.
- Portland Community College, Portland, 971-722-6111, 866-922-1010, pcc.edu, serves Lake Oswego, most of the city of Portland, all of Washington County, and parts of Columbia and Yamhill counties; the four main campuses are Cascade (in North Portland), Rock Creek (off the Sunset Highway in the western suburbs near Hillsboro), Sylvania (in outer Southwest Portland), and Southeast Portland at Division St and 82nd Ave, with several additional centers located in Portland, Newberg, and Washington County. Community education classes take place at dozens of sites around the area.
Other Degree-Granting Institutions
The Portland area supports dozens of other institutions of higher or continuing education. Some of these institutions, like Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts (chefs.edu), National College of Natural Medicine (ncnm.edu), Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (ocom.edu), and Mount Angel Seminary (mountangelabbey.org/seminary/) offer specialized instruction in specific disciplines; others are run by national for-profit corporations and focus on career or business education. You can find a complete list of approved degree-granting programs in Oregon on the website of the state Student Assistance Commission’s Office of Degree Authorization (oregonstudentaid.gov/oda.aspx). A similar list for Washington is available from the Washington Student Achievement Council (wsac.wa.gov).