Pitt-Bradford has maintained its total enrollment and set records for student retention in a year when many colleges and universities are struggling to attract and keep students.
“The fact that we have done so well recruiting new and retaining current students during a global pandemic is proof that Pitt-Bradford has a phenomenal group of faculty and staff who put the needs of our students first,” said Dr. Catherine Koverola, Pitt-Bradford’s president.
Retention at Pitt-Bradford – the number of students who return – is up across the board: first-year-to-sophomore retention is 71.6% (the highest since 2006); sophomore-to-junior retention is 81.3% (the highest ever); and junior-to-senior retention is 89.9% (the second-highest ever).
“Having a record number of students return to campus this fall illustrates that our faculty and staff are helping students have an excellent Pitt-Bradford experience that they truly value,” Koverola said.
Though the pandemic has brought challenges to all college campuses, Koverola noted that there have been many new initiatives at Pitt-Bradford to help provide a healthy, safe and engaging environment for students.
One initiative was the Flex@Pitt model, which allows all University of Pittsburgh students to study in person, remotely or both, as needed. Additionally, Pitt-Bradford’s Academic Affairs Office provided a tool kit to help students navigate online learning, while information technology staff made sure students had the laptops and Wi-Fi connections students needed to access their courses remotely.
To help students stay engaged outside of the classroom, many staff members and student groups planned robust online engagement activities.
“We’ve also called and emailed our students at various times to make sure they were doing well and to provide them with additional support if they needed it,” Koverola said.
One new supportive measure was the Student Emergency Fund, which was created to help students affected by the pandemic meet basic needs, such as housing and food insecurity.
In addition to these new initiatives, Pitt-Bradford had a strong COVID-19 mitigation response to help support the health and safety of its students, faculty and staff.
“We worked very closely with our colleagues and medical experts on the Pittsburgh campus to develop a sound plan so we could keep our campus community -- as well as our neighbors in the surrounding community -- safe and healthy,” Koverola said.
Another contributing factor to Pitt-Bradford’s retention is an initiative from the University of Pittsburgh to match any federal Pell grants awarded to students on all of its five campuses, which took effect at the beginning of the 2019-20 academic year.
Pell grants are need-based federal grants. Starting in the fall of 2019, the university has matched these grants, which average $4,500. University wide, the match applied to about 5,000 students, including 38% of all students at Pitt-Bradford.
The Pell match builds on Pitt-Bradford’s longstanding efforts, which have been lauded by national publications, to provide additional support to students in all areas, including academics, financial aid, and leadership and engagement.
The match program also helped the university’s recruitment efforts. Of Pitt-Bradford’s first-year class this fall, 43.3% of students received Pell grants and the Pitt Success Pell Match.
This fall, Pitt-Bradford enrolled 1,305 students. Of those new students, 373 were first-year students, and 72 were transfer students.
Overall, 71% of Pitt-Bradford students live in Pennsylvania, 15% are from New York and another 12% are from 29 other states and six countries.
Twenty percent of Pitt-Bradford’s students are Black or African American, 3.8 percent are Hispanic, and 4.7 percent are Asian.
Also contributing to Pitt-Bradford’s recruiting efforts was the flexibility and creativity of the staff in the admissions and financial aid offices who worked quickly last spring to move recruiting online by conducting virtual visits, Zoom chats and Facebook live events.
“I’m grateful to everyone involved in the recruiting process,” said Dr. James Baldwin, vice president for enrollment management, “not only the staff members in admissions and financial aid but everyone on campus who helped us recruit and retain our students.”