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November 6, 2008

Pitt frosh stats continue to improve

Pitt’s incoming freshman class has continued to improve, said Betsy Porter, director of the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid.

Compared to last year’s freshmen, the fall 2008 class was larger – 3,488 compared to 3,419 — and also better by several measurable standards. A quarter of the incoming class ranked among the top 10 students in their high school class (up from 24 percent), 8 percent were valedictorian or salutatorian (up from 7 percent) and 37 percent (up from 34 percent) earned grade point averages of 4.0 or above, with 981 freshmen entering with GPAs greater than 4.0.

Class ranks are falling by the wayside with about one-third of high schools choosing not to rank their students. But, Porter said, 78 percent of Pitt freshmen from schools that do rank their students graduated in the top 20 percent of their class, while 48 percent were in the top 10 percent.

Among the most important quality factors, Porter told the Senate budget policies committee Oct. 31, is that Pitt continues to draw students with higher SAT scores. While the SAT has added a writing section, bringing the test total to 2400, Pitt is among the schools that has continued to consider only the math and verbal/critical reading sections, which total 1600 points.

About 20 percent of the class qualified for the University Honors College, which this year had guidelines of a score of 1400 or better on the SAT and a high school class rank in the top 5 percent. In fall 2008, 725 students qualified, up from 684 in 2007, 679 in 2000 and 339 in 1995. This fall’s honors college-eligible class averaged 1438 on their SATs, up from 1426 last year and from 1335 in 2000.

Seventy-two of this year’s freshmen earned an 800 on their verbal SATs (up from 53 last year); 59 got perfect scores on the math section (up from 43).

In terms of combined scores, 590 of this fall’s freshmen scored 1400 or better, up from 488 last year.

While Pitt has its share of freshmen with stellar SAT scores, Porter also shared figures showing the mid-50 percent range of incoming freshmen.

Half of the incoming 2008 class scored between 1180 and 1340 on their SATs; 25 percent of the class scored higher and 25 percent scored lower. Those numbers are up from a mid-50 percent range of 1170-1330 last year. Looking more closely at the components of Pitt freshmen’s SAT scores, for the verbal/critical reading portion of the test, the mid-50 percent range was 570-680, for math 590-680 and for writing 560-660. GPA averages have held relatively steady in recent years. The average GPA for applicants in 2008 was 3.53, the same as 2007. Of admitted freshmen, GPAs averaged 3.86, up from 3.85 last year. For those who made deposits, GPAs averaged 3.87 percent, up from 3.85 last year.

The University has seen an increase in the number of applicants in addition to a rise in the number of students admitted and the number who paid deposits. Of 20,685 applicants for fall 2008, about half — 11,467— were admitted and 3,488 paid deposits. Last year, 10,591 out of 19,056 applicants were admitted; 3,419 accepted. Comparatively, in 2000 8,370 of 13,565 applicants were admitted and 2,951 accepted; in 1995, 6,193 of 7,825 applicants were admitted and 2,424 paid deposits.

Porter said the University would be “reasonably satisfied” if it maintains an applicant pool of about 20,000. “It gives us the flexibility to choose,” she said.

While applications from in-state residents rose 6.1 percent over last year and have grown from 5,540 in 1995 to 13,440 for the current freshman class, Pitt also is seeing rising numbers of out-of-state applicants as well. The University posted a 19.5 percent increase in freshmen from Ohio in the fall term. Increases are coming from well beyond Pennsylvania’s neighbors, too. The number of Texans in the freshman class has grown from 14 in 1995 to 139 now. Porter noted that for the first time she is planning to send admissions staff to recruit in Texas.

Drawing from a wider geographic region is increasingly important in light of population demographics, Porter said. Pennsylvania and its neighbors, Ohio, West Virginia and New York, are among the states projected to have a 5-10 percent decline in college-age students between 2005 and 2015. States such as Florida, Texas and Arizona are projected to grow 20 percent or more in the college-aged demographic by 2015, so casting a geographically broader net “makes even more sense now,” she said.

Porter noted that students’ inability to borrow money for tuition hasn’t impacted Pitt. “We’re not seeing any change with our student population,” she said.

Likewise, fears that high gasoline and airfare costs would curtail campus visits didn’t materialize here. Of the 2008 fall recruits, 7,848 had visited campus by Sept. 1 of their senior year in high school, up 27 percent from fall 2007.

Looking forward in the midst of today’s troubled financial times, Porter said Pitt may benefit by gaining students whose families think twice about paying for higher-cost private schools. Conversely, the University may lose some potential students at the other end of the financial spectrum who will choose less-costly options such as community colleges.

The University exceeded its fall freshman enrollment goal of 3,460, receiving 3,488 deposits, Porter said. Enrollment goals are expected to hold steady in most areas for the coming year, although the School of Arts and Sciences plans to add 25 students, she said.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 41 Issue 6

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