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October 12, 1995

Figures show fall enrollment is slightly below last year's levels

Pitt fell below its over- all enrollment goals for fall 1995, according to figures released by the University administration this week.

The administration had budgeted for a 1.5 percent increase (the equivalent of 352 full-time students) in undergraduate enrollment this fall. But in fact, undergraduate enrollment declined by 1.1 percent.

Graduate enrollment was virtually unchanged from last year.

The fall 1995 decreases are minor compared with last year's enrollment shortfall of 851 full-time equivalent students. Pitt officials attributed that shortfall to an unexpectedly large number of non-returning students. Because of delays in getting final enrollment figures, last year's decline went undetected by the administration until April, and it led to University-wide freezes in hiring and purchasing.

"Compared with last year's shortfall, the fall 1995 numbers represent fairly small fluctuations in enrollment," said Provost James Maher. "Thanks to some of the steps we took in planning this year's academic budgets, we will be able to make adjustments beginning immediately in October rather than imposing very disruptive things like the freezes last year." Schools and departments that fell short of their fall 1995 enrollment goals will be required to make up the differences by spending less, beginning this month, Maher said.

Overall, Pitt won't feel quite as big a pinch from this fall's enrollment decline because of a 38.5 percent increase in out-of-state freshmen and transfer students (from the equivalent last fall of 376 such students to 521 in fall 1995). Out-of-state students pay higher tuition than Pennsylvania residents.

Also, Pitt's administration placed tuition revenue from the 156 students who enrolled in the new undergraduate College of Business Administration (CBA) into a central reserve fund to offset any tuition shortfalls.

In an Oct. 11 memorandum to Provost Maher, Vice Provost for Academic Planning and Resources Management Robert F. Pack wrote: "The University had hoped to reverse the undergraduate enrollment shortfall that occurred last year, partly by initiating the new College of Business Administration on the Pittsburgh campus and by attempting to reduce the attrition rate.

"To some extent, this strategy was successful. The College of Business Administration attracted 156 students, and the attrition rate at the College of Arts and Sciences appears to have improved. The combined CAS/CBA enrollment is 9,649 students, nearly 80 students above the CAS level of a year ago. Since the bulk of the instructional responsibility for the initial years of the CBA program falls upon CAS, it is appropriate to consider the two units as one for purposes of determining enrollment targets." University-wide, full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment dropped by 159.6 students this year — from 27,029.8 FTEs in fall 1994 to 26,870.2 FTEs in fall 1995.

FTE enrollments include both full- and part-time students and should not be confused with the "headcount," or total number of students. For example, Pitt's fall 1995 headcount is 31,819, which works out to 26,870 FTEs.

Graduate enrollment totaled 7,368.4 FTEs this fall, compared with 7,366.6 in fall 1994. Undergraduate enrollment declined by 1.1 percent, from 19,668.2 FTE students last fall to 19,501.8 in fall 1995.

Among the regional campuses, Johnstown gained 29 FTE students (from 2,814.4 last fall to 2,843.4 this year) and Greensburg gained 26 FTE students (from 1,150.6 last fall to 1,176.6 this year).

Bradford campus enrollment dropped by 61.6 FTEs (from 1,064 to 1,002.4), while Titusville lost 56 FTEs (301 in fall 1994; 245 this fall).

"With regard to Bradford," Pack wrote, "the enrollment decline reflects the elimination of the program through which inmates in the McKean Federal Correctional Institution were enrolled. Since Bradford did reach its new student enrollment target, it appears that the campus remains an attractive option for many students and that its long-term prospects to significantly increase its enrollment remain bright." In terms of percentage declines, the Titusville campus was the biggest loser among all units, with an 18.6 percent enrollment drop. Maher said Pitt hopes to boost UPT enrollment with a pair of new associate degree programs. One, which opened this fall, will train physical therapy assistants. The other program will train occupational therapy assistants. Both programs were instituted in response to requests from the Titusville community, and both will build on a base of biology courses that Pitt began offering at Titusville this year, the provost said. "The process will take a few years, but there's reason to be optimistic about future enrollments at Titusville. In the meantime, though, it's true that we have an enrollment problem at that campus," Maher said.

The unit with the largest enrollment decline was the College of General Studies, which enrolled 324 (180 FTE) fewer students than last year. "This is part of a continuing pattern in CGS which the University hopes to reverse with the development of programs more responsive to the needs of the adult population," Pack wrote.

Maher blamed the Pittsburgh campus enrollment drop on the same factor that caused last year's tuition revenue shortfall: non-returning students. (The number of new undergrads — freshmen and transfer students — at the Pittsburgh campus actually increased by 5.3 percent, from 3,058 in fall 1994 to 3,220 in fall 1995.) "There is no doubt about it — we, like essentially all big state-funded universities, need to study student retention issues," Maher said. "But I think that over time we will find things we can do that will result in more of our students staying on to graduate." (See story on this page.) The provost noted several positive developments in Pitt's fall 1995 enrollment: * African-American new students increased by 41.7 percent, from 266 to 377.

* SAT scores among Pittsburgh campus freshmen were up from 1005 to 1013, and for freshmen not enrolled in special programs from 1033 to 1047.

* The number of undergraduate transfer students on the Pittsburgh campus increased from 623 to 792.

— Bruce Steele

Filed under: Feature,Volume 28 Issue 4

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