New student enrollment is lowest in at least 12 years


Alyssa Coleman

Freshmen Autumn Bozic (left) and Christina Morris (right) study in the Blackington Hall lobby Friday. According to Pitt-Johnstown president Jem Spectar, new student enrollment has had a significant decline in the last few years.

Alyssa Coleman , News Editor

At a Sept. 18 faculty senate meeting, Pitt-Johnstown president Jem Spectar said that this year’s freshmen class is the smallest in the 12 years he has been at the university, and that enrollment continues to go down.

He said this year there are around 700 new students, but when you take out the transfers and just look at incoming freshmen, that number drops to about 620.

“Three or four years ago, the classes were so large that there wasn’t enough space,” he said.  

“It’s definitely concerning. (Administrators were) asking what went wrong and what could be done to solve this.”

Freshmen surgical technology students Christina Morris and Autumn Bozic said that, so far, they like being enrolled at Pitt-Johnstown.

“I chose to go to school here because it’s close to home and a lot of people said this was a good school,” Bozic said. 

“Not only is it close to home, but your second year (in the surgical technology major) can be done at Conemaugh (Memorial MedicalCenter),” Morris said.

Spectar said staffing problems in the admissions office could be a contributor to the decline in enrollment.

“We lost three or four counselors in admissions during critical points in the recruitment cycle, and it had a big impact on enrollment,” he said.

Spectar said, when an applying student is wait-listed at Pitt-Oakland, they could be stuck on the waitlist for almost five months, and, by the time Pitt-Johnstown admissions staff learn who they are, and the student hears back from administrators, the students may have already chosen another school.

“We want to make it so the names of those students get released sooner and we get back to them faster,” he said.  “A change in that system could increase numbers.

“(Administrators) want to make it so that whenever a student enters the referral list, every effort will be made to get that student in contact with (admissions staff).”

Spectar said the single biggest element was that administrators have not caught up to the discounting race going on between different universities.

“There’s a lot of competition out there,” he said.  “Some institutions discount 50-60 percent and offer generous scholarship packages.

“While we have built a lot of revenue over the years, at a time when so many institutions are offering generous discount packages, we need to do more (with discounting).

“We want to find a way to make the campus the most affordable it’s ever been.”

Spectar also said that administrators have seen a specific decline in enrollment in the last two years, and that it has affected the university’s budget.

He said the website was weak in the past, but has since been updated, which he hopes will help incoming students navigate through it better.

He said he would like to add more personnel to the staff, including an International Recruitment Director, which he said he hopes will boost campus’s international student numbers, which have been on the decline as well.

Also, he said amissions counselors are hired at lo salary so they often move to work at other universities, who entice them with higher pay.

Spectar said under consideration are higher salaries and incentives to retain admissions counselors.