by Kevin Scrima
Pitt-Greensburg’s enrollment severely dropped this fall compared to the last academic year, from 1,677 to 1,587 (a loss of 99 students) after the “add/drop’ period for this year. Other campuses’ enrollment numbers, including the regional campuses, have dropped as well. What could possibly be the problem?
At the end of the summer, even Pitt-Oakland was threatened with not meeting its enrollment criteria. In response to this problem, administration made a “last-minute fix to meet their numbers,” Mr. Zidek from the admissions department said.
The fix involved lowering the required grade point average (G.P.A.) for transfer students from 3.0 to 2.5, and as a result, the Pitt-Oakland campus was able to meet its enrollment criteria by allowing students with a lower G.P.A. to attend.
“Oakland’s move hurts us because it took students away from us and it helps Oakland out because it wasn’t meeting its numbers,” Mr. Zidek said. “Its website still reflects the 3.0 requirement, but we have found out through the admissions office in Oakland that the G.P.A. requirement did indeed lower to 2.5 for the fall.”
By not reflecting the GPA change on their website, it is implied that the admissions staff don’t want to reveal that they sacrificed their previous GPA standards (and their integrity) for more students, and in extension, more money.
This move, along with many other factors, affected the lowering enrollment numbers of Pitt-Greensburg. The enrollment goal Oakland sets for Pitt-Greensburg is 1,750, which hasn’t been met since 2011, when the enrollment number was at the high of 1,846.
The required G.P.A. for incoming transfer students at Pitt-Greensburg is 2.25. Since the G.P.A. requirement was lowered for the Oakland campus, transfer students were able to bypass regional campuses.
Mr. Zidek spoke about the specific numbers of last year’s and this year’s transfer students. Last year, there were 141 transfer students who paid the $100 deposit to enroll in classes, and out of those students, only 124 actually enrolled. This year, there were only 102 transfer students who paid the $100 deposit to enroll in classes, and only 91 of those actually enrolled.
Mr. Zidek mentioned three main factors that relate to low student enrollment: the number of students in the incoming class, the number of students retained, and the number of students who graduate. He gave a general idea of how well Pitt-Greensburg is doing with these three main factors: “this year, we were able to bring in a larger number in the freshman class. We did have a larger graduating class this year. I also know that our retention rate is on the low side.”
These low enrollment numbers result in lower revenue from student fees and activity fees. Pitt-Greensburg commonly hosts a $30,000 concert once a year, and because of the low enrollment numbers, there will be no concert this year.
“The student clubs are more important than the concert,” said Al Thiel, the Director of Student Activities. A tough choice was made between either hurting the funding for student clubs and activities throughout the year or having the one-night concert.
Further, 70 Pitt-Greensburg students relocated to main campus, either to finish their program there or to be at an environment more to their preference. Also, Westmoreland County Community College (W.C.C.C.) enrollment is down from last year, Mr. Zidek said, based on a counselor there who used to work for Pitt-Greensburg.
WCCC is the number-one feeder school for Pitt-Greensburg when it comes to transfer students; if their enrollment numbers go down, then so do Pitt-Greensburg’s. The Community College of Allegheny County (C.C.A.C.) is Pitt-Greensburg’s second-biggest feeder school when it comes to transfer students, and its enrollment numbers declined by more than five percent.
But it’s also important to keep in mind that Pitt-Greensburg, like the other regional campuses, is a feeder school for the main campus. “The history of the campus,” Dr. Wes Jamison, the Vice President for Academic Affairs, said, “is to be a feeder campus for Oakland.”
“The regional campuses have a different market compared to Oakland,” Dr. Jamison said, “so it’s hard to compare them.” When asked about the specifics of losing funding, Dr. Jamison said a rough estimate would be a loss of $6,000 to $7,000 per student; so if we lost 70 students, such as we did with relocation students, that loss would be anywhere from $400,000 to $500,000. “If the enrollment doesn’t go up,” Dr. Jamison said, “then Pitt-Greensburg doesn’t get all the dollars.”
And enrollment is going to need to go up so Pitt-Greensburg can pay Oakland back the one-million dollars owed. “The campus budget is augmented when enrollment increased and reduced when enrollment decreases,” Dr. Jamison said. “The million dollars represents the calculated reduction over a period of several years.” But that is not necessarily the number that the provost will ask the campus to pay.
It’s important to keep in mind that the tuition supports the other campuses — including the libraries, lawyers, computing, provost — because they have no independent income, unlike room and board, that funds itself, so it’s not missed with tuition money. Student activities are apart from the curriculum. In other words, the lower budget is not taking away anything from the school’s curriculum.
“The budget is not settled,” Dr. Jamison said, “so it’s unclear on how much money we have to spend. We have to make cuts, but we don’t know how bad.”
“[The] budget is tight this year.” Meena Gella, the President of the Student Government Association, S.G.A., also mentioned.
Dr. Jamison said that there are about 1,529 full-time equivalents, which is a calculated value from 1,477 full-time students + (105 part-time students *.40), because part-time students account for four-tenths of one full-time student. Pitt-Greensburg considers the number of freshman students that they recruited to be a success, but the number of transfer students to be lacking. And when students relocate to main campus, it’s a challenge for the admissions office to replace them.
And because of these low enrollment numbers, The University of Pittsburgh and its campuses increased their tuition price over the summer, main campus’s rising by 3.9 percent and the branch campuses’ rising by two percent, except for Titusville– its tuition price is frozen at $10,544.
This means that Pitt-Greensburg’s tuition price was increased by $119 per semester, with annual tuition rising to $12,452 for in-state students and $23,268 for out-of-state students.
However, there is an “other” fee, of $920, which increases the in-state price to $13,372 and the out-of state price to $24,188. If students choose to live on campus, room and board costs an additional $9,260.
Collegecalc.org reports that the in-state tuition price is “95 percent more expensive than the national average public four year tuition of $6,256” and is “48 percent cheaper than the average Pennsylvania tuition of $23,301 for 4-year colleges,” but it “ranks 21st in Pennsylvania amongst 4-year colleges for affordability and is the 115th most expensive 4-year college in the state.”
So with the loss of about $400,000 to $500,000, if not more, with the 99-student reduction, and with Pitt-Greensburg’s owing Oakland one-million dollars, part of the student experience, both present and future, is at stake.
A small portion of the Pitt-Greensburg students’ experience is sacrificed to feed Oakland.