By SUSAN JONES
Marc Harding, vice provost for enrollment, and Kellie Kane, executive director of admissions, gave a pretty rosy picture of Pitt’s incoming freshman class at the June 1 Senate Educational Policies Committee meeting.
As of June 1, the number of students who had sent in deposits for the fall was at 4,667, compared to 4,166 at the same time last year. The goal is for a freshman class of 4,255. Overall, 32,340 applied to enter Pitt this fall — the most ever — and 20,769 were accepted.
The admissions office always expects a “summer melt” of students who have committed to Pitt but decide not to enroll in the fall, and this year a different set of factors could affect that number. Some students may decide not to enroll because of COVID-19 fears or money woes brought on by the pandemic, and some international students may not be able to get to campus in time for classes to start.
Harding said that right now there are more than 100 international students who have sent in their deposits but won’t be able to get to campus by August because of visa or transportation issues. Kane said the provost’s office is working with international students to possibly defer admission until the spring or provide remote learning opportunities.
One promising figure is the increasingly higher percentage of non-Pennsylvania residents who decide to come to Pitt. In 2012, nonresident students made up 32.1 percent of the freshman class, and in fall 2019 that number was 41.4 percent. This increase is important, Harding said, because of the coming “demographapocalypse,” which will cause a sharp drop in college-age students, particularly in Pennsylvania and the rest of the Northeast, starting in 2026. The birth rate dropped significantly in 2008 because of the recession.
The top 10 list of states sending students to Pitt is still led by New Jersey, New York and Maryland, but also includes California, Illinois, Texas and Florida. Five years ago, 83 percent of Pitt’s students came from 10 states, now that number is 73.5 percent.
“We’re diversifying the states where our students are coming from,” Kane said. “It’s showing that we’re no longer a regional university and we have more of a national footprint. We’re bringing in students from across the country.”
Harding noted that although there are more nonresident students, the number of Pennsylvania residents at Pitt has not gone down because overall enrollment is up. The regional campuses also play a role in this, said Frank Wilson, former University Senate president and assistant vice president for Academic Affairs at Pitt–Greensburg, since their students are primarily Pennsylvania residents.
The areas where Pitt has recruiters in residence have seen a 20.5 percent increase in student applications. This is particularly important during the current pandemic, since it would be difficult to send recruiters around the country. Kane said they plan to add a second recruiter in both California and New Jersey, as well as hire people for the southeastern U.S. and rural Pennsylvania.
Kane said the office is very proud of increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of the student body. The number of minority students in the freshman class is up more than 70 percent from 2012 to 2019.
Pitt also has seen an increase in Pell-eligible students, particularly since the Pitt Success program was announced last year. Pitt now matches all federal Pell grants. Harding pointed out that while other forms of aid — federal and state grants and subsidized loans — have gone down, Pitt’s contribution to meeting students’ financial need has gone up. He said that even in the face of the financial problems caused by the pandemic, the University is standing by the Pitt Success program.
One area that does need attention is transfer enrollment, which has dropped over the past five years. Harding said Pitt has not been “transfer friendly.” The biggest issue, Kane said, is that it’s difficult for students to figure out how their credits would transfer to Pitt. The Office of Admissions and Financial Aid is currently working on an online portal that would make that easier.
Harding said they also are talking about rotating some hours in the office, so there would be people available outside of the standard 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift.
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 412-648-4294.
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