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September 17, 2015

Class of 2019 is most diverse ever

diversityThe University welcomed 4,872 new undergraduates to the Pittsburgh campus this fall: 4,054 freshmen and 818 external transfer students.

This fall’s freshman class is not only larger than expected, it’s more diverse than ever, with the class of 2019 hailing from 44 states and 1,312 high schools, plus 17 other countries. The proportion of nonwhite freshmen — 26.2 percent — is a record for Pitt, with 1,061 minority students among the class, said Marc Harding, chief enrollment officer.

The average SAT score for freshmen held steady from last year at 1297.

Sixty-four percent of freshmen come from within Pennsylvania, while 36 percent are from out of state. Of the in-state freshmen, 13 percent are from Allegheny County; 51 percent come from elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

Most out-of-state freshmen — 83 percent — were drawn from 10 states: New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts, California, Illinois, North Carolina and Connecticut.


Eighty-six percent of this fall’s incoming transfer students are from within Pennsylvania; 14 percent are from out of state.


Harding, with Kellie Kane, director of operations and strategic planning in the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, elaborated on the as-yet-unofficial numbers in a Sept. 10 presentation to the University Senate student admissions, aid and affairs committee.

Kane said 16,504 freshmen were admitted this fall from among more than 30,650 applicants to make up the class of 4,054.

In comparison, according to Pitt’s 2014-15 common data set, 4,607 new undergraduates arrived this time last year: 3,845 freshmen and 762 transfer students.

“From 2000 to 2014 our deposit yield has been going down, which means we have to admit more to make the freshman class,” Kane explained. “It went up this year, which is exciting — more people want to come to Pitt,” she said. The deposit yield — the number of admitted students who follow through by putting money down to attend — rose to 24.6 percent, up from 23.9 percent.

“We’re thrilled to see it go up but it’s creating some challenges,” Harding agreed.

“We have to watch this,” he said. “If we expect a yield of 24.6 percent, that means we’re going to admit fewer students. But if one (factor in the equation) is off, that means we could bring in (only) 3,600 students … and that would be bad. That’s the art and science of what we do. We want yields to go up … but we can’t have another class of 4,054,” he said. “That gets a little crazy.”

The aim is to bring in about 3,900 freshmen each fall, Kane told the University Times. This year’s target enrollment goal was 3,870.

Exceeding the target creates immediate issues — the most obvious one being where to house the additional freshmen. But, Kane said, exceeding the target number in successive years also would strain limited physical resources on campus, such as lab space, and could affect class sizes and the number of courses the University needs to offer.

International yield increases

A big part of this year’s increase came through a jump in the international student yield, which rose from 19.5 percent last fall to 24.3 percent.

“This is a huge increase in the number of international students and it’s for a lot of reasons,” said Harding, crediting “very active recruitment” in addition to “all the great stuff that’s happening at Pitt to attract these students here.”

He noted that the number of international undergraduate applications is down significantly, but deposits are up. Previously the focus had been on the number of applications.

“We had all these applications but we couldn’t process them,” he said, citing the need to translate and evaluate transcripts. “If we can’t process them, they’re never going to come.

“We needed to speed things up. If we can’t evaluate an application in a reasonable amount of time, they’re gone. And that’s what was happening.”

Since Harding’s arrival in 2012, there’s been an added focus on the process, including requiring international students to have their transcripts evaluated by an outside company, he said.

This fall brought 164 international student deposits from among 1,912 applicants, compared with 90 deposits from among 2,778 applicants in 2012. At the same time, TOEFL (Test of English as a foreign language) proficiency test scores held steady at 100.

“Even though the number of applications has fallen… it’s all about finding good-fit students at the end of the day,” he said.

“It’s always nice to get a higher number of applications (but) it doesn’t necessarily translate to more students, more better students, more best-fit students,” Harding said.

“I think we’ve really proven that by applications dropping, the average TOEFL staying right there and increasing the actual number of students.”

Other yield rates

While the yield rate among in-state freshmen rose to 33.4 percent (up from 32.8 percent) and out-of-state yields rose to 16.6 percent (up from 15.7), the overall minority student yield held flat at 20.2 percent, affected by a dramatic drop in the African-American student yield rate, which fell to 24.7 percent (down from 28.2). “These students are recruited nationally,” Harding noted.

Recruitment strategies

Although Pitt continues to attract healthy numbers of students from Pennsylvania despite the state’s smaller high school graduating classes, “we need to be looking at non-resident recruitment to maintain enrollment where we want it,” he said.

Pitt’s “natural recruitment territory” includes a 300-mile radius surrounding Pittsburgh, owing to the fact that most students in the United States attend college within 300 miles of home, Harding said.

Other recruitment territory includes the states where fellow Atlantic Coast Conference schools are located and the states with the most Pitt alumni. Outside of Pennsylvania, the top 10 states where Pitt alumni reside are: Florida, California, New York, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and Illinois.

Ongoing effort

“For fall 2015, we were actively recruiting 73,000 students in our database to get 30,000 applications to get a class of 4,000. At the end of the recruitment cycle for the fall 2015 class we just enrolled, we were regularly communicating with 73,000 students,” said Harding.

The process never ends. “Right now we’re regularly communicating with 60,000 fall 2016 prospective students. And we’re regularly communicating with 20,000 fall 2017 (high school) juniors and we’re talking to a couple thousand high school sophomores,” he said.

“It’s multidimensional, which makes sense. There are students out there looking at colleges now. We need to be communicating with them because if we’re not, other colleges are building those relationships.”


In other business:

• The new committee, created in a Senate standing committee realignment that merged the Senate admissions and student aid committee with the student affairs committee (see April 30 University Times), met in closed session to discuss ideas for combining their former mission statements.

• The committee’s next meeting is set for 4 p.m. Oct. 15 in 272 Hillman Library. Pamela Connelly, associate vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, and Katie Pope, Pitt’s new Title IX coordinator, are scheduled to speak.

—Kimberly K. Barlow     

Filed under: Feature,Volume 48 Issue 2

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