Pitt–Bradford keeping pace with N.Y. students, despite free tuition across the border


Pitt–Bradford, in McKean County, is just four and a half miles from New York, so half its natural student recruiting territory is in our neighboring state. Last fall, Pitt’s northernmost campus suddenly faced a challenge: How to counter New York’s new offer of free tuition for Empire State residents at its state-related universities.

So far, Pitt–Bradford is having success maintaining the same population of New York students as in previous years.

“Initially, we did have some students who decided not to return to Bradford,” said James L. Baldwin, the campus’s vice president for Enrollment Management.

To create more incentive for New York students to enroll, Pitt–Bradford had already instituted the Go Beyond New York State Award in spring 2014, as a tuition break for students in New York’s Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties, nearest to campus. Erie County, N.Y., was added to the program in 2015. Then last year, to battle New York’s new program, students in 20 more of the closest New York counties were made eligible.

The result has been 181 New York state residents enrolled this fall at Bradford, comparable to the 171, 197 and 178 in the three most recent autumns.

To support the program, campus administrators hired an additional admissions counselor to recruit within the nearest 120 New York high schools. “And to help create a mindset for visitation — we’re not that far away,” Baldwin said — just a two-hour drive from all counties eligible for the Go Beyond program.

Still, free tuition is a huge incentive; why would New York students continue to choose Bradford?

Baldwin points out that the New York program requires recipients to live and work in-state for four years if they received four years of its scholarship. Only students from a certain income level are eligible, and they must try for federal aid before the New York program kicks in. Plus, he said, it doesn’t cover room and board.

Of course, Baldwin said, there are other factors that keep students at Bradford:  “The quality of education they are receiving, and the power of Pitt — those who are thinking of eventually relocating to the Pittsburgh campus. We are a gem in the region.”

He also credits the “personalized environment — at Pitt-Bradford, you can be a big fish in a small pond,” with opportunities to do undergraduate research and find internships. “I think it's the kind of environment where you can really grow and flourish.”

While demographics are making the maintenance of current enrollments tough for colleges all over the eastern U.S. — high schools are graduating fewer students in recent years, he noted — “we’re looking for every opportunity to be on the short list of institutions a student might consider.”

Marty Levine is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at martyl@pitt.edu or 412-758-4859.