President Gregerson spoke of Pitt-Greensburg’s current and future financial situation during a town hall meeting in the chapel on Feb. 20. Faculty and staff, as well as representatives from the Student Government Association, attended.
President Gregerson gave the “state of the budget” presentation to update those in attendance of Pitt-Greensburg’s financial relationship with Oakland and suggest ways that faculty and staff can improve student retention rates.
“I don’t like anyone to ever think that decisions are made behind an opaque window,” President Gregerson said.
Tuition dollars from Pitt-Greensburg students are paid to Oakland’s campus, according to President Gregerson. Oakland then gives approximately 65% of that tuition sum back to Pitt-Greensburg.
For each fiscal year, which starts in July and ends the following June, Pitt-Greensburg’s administration must estimate the total number of students who will be enrolled in the Spring and Fall semesters. This estimate becomes the number that Oakland bases the tuition dollars budget on for the fiscal year.
“That’s an interesting way of doing things,” President Gregerson said. “It’s a system set up for a growth environment.”
The administration estimated that Pitt-Greensburg would have 1,559 students enrolled for Fall 2019, but the actual number of enrolled students was 1,450, leaving a difference of 109 students. For Spring 2020, the number of enrolled students was projected to be 1,386, but the actual enrollment count was 1,323, which is 63 fewer students.
Because Oakland bases Pitt-Greensburg’s budget allowance on the estimated numbers, Pitt-Greensburg received $10,634,761 for Fall 2019 but only raised $9,803,556 in tuition dollars, which leaves a $831,205 debt to Oakland.
In Spring 2020, Oakland provided Pitt-Greensburg with $9,446,575 based on the enrollment estimate, and Pitt-Greensburg raised $9,058,038 in tuition dollars, leaving a $388,538 debt to Oakland.
The total difference between Fall 2019 and Spring 2020 is $1,219,743, which Pitt-Greensburg must pay back to Oakland.
“We made a bad estimate,” President Gregerson said.
The debt for each fiscal year is divided across three years, the first payment due in August 2020.
President Gregerson views improving retention rates as a key factor in making successful estimates for the coming semesters.
In Fall 2018, about 69% of white freshman students returned for their sophomore year, and about 50.6% of minority students returned. In that same semester, 67.6% of students who had declared a major in their freshman year returned for their sophomore year, while 55.4% of undecided freshman returned. 66.7% of freshman commuters and 62.3% of freshman residents came back for their sophomore year.
President Gregerson offered a list of changes and improvements he plans to look into implementing across campus to help improve student retention and new-student enrollment, including: building and improving campus facilities, creating more athletics programs, encouraging a more inclusive campus experience, updating curriculum and adding new fields of study, and improving the academic advising process.
The discussion of retention was a follow-up to a session that faculty and staff attended over the summer of 2019.
“We have people who care deeply about [student success],” President Gregerson said. “Ask yourself, ‘does this thing enhance student success’? If the answer is no, don’t do it.”
He also believes that student involvement, effort, and participation is essential to improving student success and retention rates.
“It’s a partnership,” he said. “It is always up to the student to take advantage of the opportunities. We’ve got a common goal.”
Pitt-Greensburg’s new enrollment rates are stagnant, and transfer rates are dropping, but a new agreement with Oakland is bringing in $1,000 per transfer student to Pitt-Greensburg, up to $100,000 per year.
“I asked for much more,” President Gregerson said, “but $100,000 is better than zero. A dollar is a dollar.”
He remains optimistic about the future of Pitt-Greensburg, which Georgetown University ranked number 288 out of 4,500 liberal arts colleges across the country in terms of its 40-year return on investment (ROI) for students. Pitt-Greensburg is the highest-ranked Pitt campus, including Oakland, on this list.
“Pick whatever flowery language you want to use,” he said. “We’re a good investment.”