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An Unconventional Approach to Education

An experience that allows students’ ambition to blossom into purpose, their skills to sharpen into tools, and their caring to become a transformative force

By Jillian Chandler

From the classroom to the workforce, Pacific Lutheran University students are inspired and encouraged to investigate, teach, create, serve, and play—with and for their neighbors down the street and around the globe.

Founded in 1890 by Norwegian immigrants and located in the Parkland neighborhood of Tacoma, Washington, PLU continues the distinctive tradition of Lutheran higher education. A commitment to experiential learning—learning by doing—is central in preparing students to make an immediate impact upon graduating. PLU faculty members seek to educate students for lives of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership, and care—for other people, for their communities, and for the earth.

“PLU purposefully integrates the liberal arts, professional studies, and civic engagement in the beautiful Pacific Northwest,” says PLU President Allan Belton. “With distinctive international programs and close student-faculty research opportunities, we help our students discern their life’s vocation through coursework, mentorship, and internships at world-class Puget Sound-area businesses and institutions.”

Students come from 40 states and 16 countries, and 33 percent of PLU undergraduates are first-generation college students. For the first time in PLU’s history, the majority of the university’s first-year students identify as students of color.

The majority of PLU courses are offered in person, but the university is continuously expanding opportunities for blended and online learning. PLU offers more classes and more majors than most similar-sized private universities. At PLU, students pick from more than 40 majors (business, nursing, psychology, and music—which includes music education—have ranked as the top four degrees over the past few years) and 50 minors, along with graduate and professional programs in areas such as business administration, creative writing, education, kinesiology, marketing analytics, marriage and family therapy, and nursing.

The university is regularly lauded for its academic rigor, innovation, and commitment to community, while the faculty and staff work to create an environment where learners feel heard and valued.

“Professors serve as mentors and collaborators to our students, encouraging them to consider new ways of thinking, to take risks, and to grow,” affirms Provost Joanna Gregson. “Our students are engaged, thoughtful, and ambitious learners. We provide a space for them to tackle the tough questions and work together to solve problems bigger than ourselves.”

Students are encouraged to not only rigorously engage in the classroom, but also understand that their mental and physical health, social engagement, and recreation are critical elements to a balanced collegiate experience.

PLU administrators understand the importance of an education, and recognize how opportunities to learn and engage aren’t always available to everyone. That’s why the university is leading the way in making a college education more affordable and accessible to students who might not otherwise have the means to pursue a higher education.

PLU was recently named the No. 1 university in Washington State and ninth in the country for financial aid by LendEDU, and was ranked third in the West for “Best Value” by U.S. News & World Report.

Known for its 253 PLU Bound Full Tuition Scholarship—offered to students who attend high school in Washington State, have a minimum 3.30 weighted cumulative GPA and are College Bound eligible—PLU awards qualifying students full tuition for their four years at PLU through a combination of federal, state, and PLU grants and scholarships, in addition to the College Bound Scholarship.

The school also partners with local education nonprofits like Act Six and Palmer Scholars to help support the enrollment and campus success of area students who identify as members of historically underrepresented communities. PLU recently expanded its partnership with Act Six to create additional scholarship and access support for students from the Yakima Valley area.

And just last month, PLU announced a Fixed Tuition Guarantee that will ensure that tuition for the 2022-23 incoming class of first-year and transfer students will remain the same throughout their undergraduate years at the university. “The Fixed Tuition Guarantee ensures that incoming students’ cost of tuition will be locked in, from their first day until their graduation day,” affirms Belton.

The university’s PLU Pledge also ensures that once students are employed post-graduation, PLU will help earners who are bringing home less than $50,000 per year repay their student (and parent PLUS) loans.

“Because of these three initiatives and others, PLU has been widely recognized for its unconventional and trendsetting financial aid, access, and support initiatives,” says Belton.

Pacific Lutheran University

12180 Park Avenue South

Tacoma, Washington 98447


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