By SUSAN JONES
While some universities are expecting an enrollment slump in the fall, Pitt’s numbers are stronger than ever, Steve Wisniewski, vice provost for Data & Analytics, told the Senate Budget Policies committee on May 5.
As of May 1, the University had received deposits from 5,160 first-year students, breaking the previous record of 4,560 set in 2020. This is particularly surprising, Wisniewski said, because deposits were lagging about 10 percent behind 2020 numbers in mid-April.
Kellie Kane, director of admissions, echoed these numbers at the May 20 Senate Council meeting. “We are up in both our non-Pennsylvania residents as well as our Pennsylvania residents. Right now, if all things hold true, we're going to bring in one of our largest Pennsylvania classes in Pitt’s history,” she said, and deposits from transfer students are up 12 percent over this time last year.
“The Office of Admission and Financial Aid had to do an enormous amount of work this year because we had a record number of applications and we went test optional,” Wisniewski said. “I think between 40 and 50 percent of the students went test optional, meaning no SATs, meaning a lot more reading of the applications to try to assess students.”
“All of the things that we rely on to admit great classes to the University each and every year were disrupted this year,” Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said at the Senate Council meeting. “And our admissions team, I just want to say up front, has done an incredible job responding and dealing with this.”
Typically, about six percent of students who send in a deposit decide not to attend Pitt in the fall. This “summer melt” was 12 percent last year.
“This year we don’t know exactly what to expect,” Wisniewski said. “We’re expecting the pandemic is still messing with things.”
But even if the “melt” is 12 percent, the incoming class would still exceed the goal number of 4,315 by more than 200 students.
Wisniewski said Dean of Students Kenyon Bonner is already concerned about making sure there are enough resources to support students. “We are still working through what exactly we’re going to do, but right now it does look like we’re going to have a bigger freshman class than we had anticipated in Pittsburgh,” Wisniewski said.
Matthew Sterne, vice chancellor for Business Services, has already said there will be enough housing, Wisniewski said. Pitt does not plan to continue leasing hotels for fall student housing use at this time, a University spokesman said.
“We may be bursting at the seams in the fall, which is kind of an exciting way to come out of COVID,” Gallagher said. “So everyone should get their rest of the summer.”
Some statistics about these students:
44 percent are from outside of Pennsylvania.
The number of underrepresented minorities is up — 403 Black students vs. 355 last year and 359 LatinX students vs. 313 last year — although because of the larger class the percentages haven’t changed much.
Pell recipients went from 733 for 2020-21 at to 866 for fall 2021.
For the regional campuses, the numbers of students making deposits usually lags behind the Oakland campus, since some students who were on the waitlist for Pittsburgh will be referred to the regionals. Wisniewski said Johnstown’s numbers are up a little and Greensburg and Bradford are down slightly.
The retention rate of students who were at Pitt last year and will enroll again for the fall is at 92 percent. Wisniewski said that is behind the record 93.6 percent at this time last year. “The academic team has been working diligently to contact students who have not registered to try to find out what’s going on,” he said, “and really trying to encourage them and do what we can to get them to stick with us.”
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 724-244-4042.
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