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June 22, 1995

Minority, out-of-state enrollments rising at Pitt

Pitt is making progress toward its goals of enrolling more out-of-state and African-American students while becoming more selective in recruiting, according to statistics reported at the June 12 Senate Council meeting.

As of May 19, the number of students from outside Pennsylvania who had been accepted as Pitt freshmen and had made tuition deposits was up 47 percent over the final number for last fall — from 334 (out of a fall 1994 freshman class of 2,435) to 490 (out of 2,430 freshmen recruited so far; Pitt's target freshman enrollment for fall 1995 is 2,635).

Recruitment of African-American students is up 36 percent, from 235 freshmen in fall 1994 to 320 as of May 19.

The number of African-American freshmen recruited from outside Pennsylvania is up 90 percent for that period, from 82 to 156.

And the combined, average SAT score for the Pitt student body is up from 1005 last fall to 1017. Excluding special access students, the average score for Pitt freshmen recruited as of May 19 was 1047, compared with 1033 last fall.

Dental school professor Thomas Zullo, who reported the figures and who chairs the University Senate's admission and student aid committee, said the increase in out-of-state students has not come at the expense of Pennsylvania applicants.

Demographic studies show that western Pennsylvania's college age population is shrinking, Zullo said. "If we intend to maintain anywhere near the student body size that we have now, we are going to have to go out of state," he said.

When the goal of increasing out-of-state enrollments was presented as part of the University's "Toward the 21st Century" long-range plan, approved last October by the Board of Trustees, some state legislators who serve as Commonwealth-appointed Pitt trustees protested. They suggested that out-of-state students — who pay more than twice Pitt's current in-state tuition of $4,962 for most undergraduate majors — would displace qualified Pennsylvania residents and that the University sought to recruit more non-Pennsylvanians mainly to increase revenues.

Pitt administrators denied the charges, making the case about local demographics and arguing that out-of-state students help to diversify the student body.

The percentage of non-Pennsylvanians enrolled at Pitt has increased from 4 percent two decades ago to 13 percent last fall, Zullo reported. That could increase to 20 percent in fall 1995, based on enrollments as of May 19. Even with that increase, Pitt would enroll proportionately fewer out-of-state students than Pennsylvania's three other state-related universities — Penn State, Temple and Lincoln, said Provost James Maher.

In a written report, Zullo's committee noted that definitions of "in-state" students vary. In some other states, students qualify for in-state tuition rates after attending school for one year. Pennsylvania requires a student (or his or her family) to reside in the state for one year prior to admission in order to qualify for in-state tuition. "It appears unlikely that this definition will change in the near future," the committee wrote.

Provost Maher pointed out that Pennsylvania's funding of higher education is "unusually complicated" and less generous than other states' systems, forcing Pitt to work harder to attract students as well as federal research grants and private donations to balance the University's budget.

Pennsylvania gives Pitt about $2 for every $3 the University receives from tuition, said Maher. That proportion is reversed at most other state-funded universities that belong to the American Association of Universities (AAU), he said.

About 50 percent of Pitt's operating budget comes from tuition and the state appropriation. At most other public AAU schools, those two funding sources combine for 55 percent of the budgets, the provost said.

While Gov. Tom Ridge's new tuition voucher plan for elementary and secondary education has raised controversy, Pennsylvania has long had what amounts to a voucher system for higher education through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Act, Maher said. PHEAA scholarships are available to all college-eligible students in Pennsylvania, meaning that the state's public and private universities compete against one another for students who receive PHEAA grants. In most other states, such state aid goes directly to universities, said Maher.

Pennsylvania's community college system also is unusual, the provost noted. Each county has its own, nearly autonomous community college system, so a university must reach a separate agreement with each county system in order to smooth the transfer of community college students. This year, Pitt signed its first such agreement with the Community College of Allegheny County. About one-quarter of the 600 full-time students who have transferred to Pitt annually in recent years have come from Allegheny County community college, said Betsy Porter, director of Admissions and Financial Aid.

— Bruce Steele

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