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November 11, 2010

Out-of-state student recruitment targeted

Pitt plans to extend its out-of-state student recruitment efforts over the next few years due to the diminishing number of regional high school graduates.

That information was shared at last week’s Faculty Assembly meeting by Susan Shaiman, chair of the University Senate admissions and student aid committee. Shaiman’s presentation was based on information provided to her committee by the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.

“First of all, the University is getting a stronger profile of students who are applying and we’re also getting a higher profile of students who matriculate,” Shaiman said. “This is based on higher SAT scores, higher grade point averages and class rank, when that’s available, and the increased number of students in the top 10 percent of their high school class and the increased number of students eligible for the Honors College.”

In geographic terms, most Pitt undergraduates hail from Pennsylvania, she noted. (According to the 2011 Fact Book, the current Pittsburgh campus undergraduate makeup is 76 percent in-state and 24 percent out-of-state students.)

“Pennsylvania has been our primary target area,” Shaiman said. “However, we are beginning to see that change. Demographic information in Pennsylvania is indicating we will see a decline in the number of high school graduates over the next five-10 years, which means we are going to have to do more active recruiting outside of Pennsylvania, both nationally and internationally.”

Another change regarding admissions is that for the second year in a row, Pitt is over-enrolled, pressuring on-campus living availability and other resources. “It seems as if more students who are accepted are enrolling. The high-profile students, who usually have a lot of options to choose from and in the past used to go other universities, are now coming to Pitt,” Shaiman said.

The Senate’s admissions and student aid committee is focusing its efforts on increasing retention of students on the Pittsburgh campus, particularly from the freshman to sophomore year, she said.

“Currently, retention is at 92.7 percent of traditional first-time freshmen [on the Pittsburgh campus], which is quite good. That’s across the board in the areas that admit freshmen. It’s comparable to our peer institutions,” but lower than some institutions to which Pitt aspires to be compared, Shaiman said, adding that the University’s stated retention goal is 94 percent.

Her committee gathered information on why students leave, based on survey data compiled by the Provost’s office, the Office of Residence Life and the University Center for Social and Urban Research.

Academic difficulty is not the primary reason students leave, the committee found. “That is a factor. But there are many other issues: Some are social, some financial, some health-related,” Shaiman said. “One of the things that becomes evident is that there are a lot of services that the University provides, through the Office of Residence Life and other offices — counseling, a lot of student social life services — that students are not necessarily accessing in a timely manner.”

There is evidence that keeping freshmen satisfied through Thanksgiving greatly increases the retention of those students, she said.

“So there are a lot of efforts out there to contact students early in the fall, including using the resident assistants and peer counselors.”

Her committee aims to increase the role faculty play in encouraging retention, particularly when academic difficulty may be influencing whether a student stays enrolled at Pitt, Shaiman said.

Over the past year, her committee has investigated best practices for academic retention, she noted.

“There are academic issues that make students at risk. Faculty involvement is needed in identifying students who are struggling academically,” she said. The first step is paying attention to attendance. “Missing more than three classes is an indication a student is at risk,” she pointed out.

She also urged more faculty to get involved in the designated living-learning student residence areas in their disciplines.

“This issue cuts across a number of areas, so we plan to [partner] with the educational policies committee and the student affairs committee on retention [strategies],” Shaiman said.


At its Nov. 3 meeting, Faculty Assembly also heard a report from the plant utilization and planning (PUP) committee, which advises the University Senate on matters pertaining to the physical plant and environment of the University.

PUP co-chair Irene Frieze urged more vigilance to avoid theft in campus offices. “There have been a number of robberies in offices lately, including in locked offices,” Frieze said. She reviewed a tip sheet provided by the University Police Department that included advice such as:

• Make sure that door locks, latches and hinges are operating properly.

• Change lock combinations frequently.

• Limit distribution of combinations and keys.

• Install Computrace LoJack software, which allows stolen laptops to be traced. The software is available from Computing Services and Systems Development.

• Report suspicious persons or activity to the campus police.

“The key is to be proactive in preventing thefts,” Frieze said.

She also reported that Pitt architects currently are seeking input from the University community on building design features to create a green environment and maximum space for student interaction for the residence hall expected to be built on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Thackeray Street. PUP’s sustainability subcommittee is working on proposals for that project, she added.


The University also is seeking ideas on how to modernize The Book Center, which will be renovated in the coming months.

Suggestions for either effort can be forwarded to her at, she said.

Frieze said that, in conjunction with the University’s efforts to create a greener environment, more bicycle racks have been installed across the Pittsburgh campus. “If you’d like to recommend an area that could use a bike rack, let us know, and we will forward your recommendation,” Frieze said.

In other Assembly business:

• Members heard a report from the community relations committee on recent accomplishments and plans. (See Oct. 28 University Times.)

• Senate President Michael Pinsky announced that the Nov. 23 Assembly meeting, as well as the Dec. 1 Senate Council meeting, likely will be canceled for lack of business to discuss.

—Peter Hart

Filed under: Feature,Volume 43 Issue 6

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