Kaelib’s Story: Affordable education made college possible

Kaelib is a senior studying Japanese language with a minor in Communication Studies. He was awarded the Four Years Free tuition program to complete his Bachelor’s degree. I sat down with him because I was curious about how this tuition remission program impacted his college experience.

He learned about the Four Years Free program when he was a senior in high school. As a low-income student, he knew he had to go to whichever school was cheapest. Portland State offered his intended program, Japanese, so it worked out for his situation.

He told me he received other scholarships and financial aid, but the tuition remission through Four Years Free gave him one less thing to worry about. It covers tuition not covered by other financial aid. He said he never worried about if financial aid didn’t cover enough, because the Four Years Free money would kick in.

He was even able to study abroad using money from his financial aid. He studied abroad in Osaka, Japan in the summer of 2019. Studying abroad was something he thought he would never do, but he was able to get the financial aid to make this possible. 

Kaelib lived on campus all four years that he has been in college. He says it’s nice to be able to walk to class and get the college experience like in the movies. He likes being able to walk to work through the park blocks. He likes the community aspect of it.

He said he found his community at Portland State. “Professors are understanding and open to communication. I’ve had really good teachers throughout the four years. I’ve felt constant support and know that they want students to succeed.” He said that working at the World Language Department office was a huge opportunity to get to know professors and people outside of the cultures he is familiar with. “This can be hard to do in the US. We’re all American but we’re all different. We need to respect different societal values.”

His next education goal is to get his master’s, but after he graduates from PSU he would first like to gain more real-world experience. When we spoke, he told me he applied for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, an opportunity to live in Japan and to work in schools, Boards of Education, and government offices. Afterwards, he’s thinking about getting a master’s in professional translation in localization or international foreign policy. 

Students like Kaelib are an example of how access to an affordable education can make the world of difference. The Four Years Free program is available to any incoming Oregon-resident freshman who qualifies for the Pell-Grant program, has at least a 3.0 GPA and meets the requirements of the program.

There is no separate application process for this program; all you need to do is apply to Portland State. If you meet the requirements, you will be enrolled in the program. Apply to Portland State.