THE UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
An Evaluation Team representing the
Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Prepared after study of the institution’s self-study report
and a visit to the campus on November 11-14, 2001
This report represents the views of the evaluation team as interpreted
by the Chair; it goes directly to the institution before being considered
by the Commission. It is a confidential document prepared as an education
service for the benefit of the institution. All comments in the report
are made in good faith, in an effort to assist the University of Pittsburgh.
This report is based solely on an educational evaluation of the institution
and of the manner in which it appears to be carrying out its educational
Members of the Evaluation Team:
Thomas H. Jackson (Chair)
University of Rochester
Rochester, NY 14627-0011
Dennis R. Black
Vice President for Student Affairs
State University of New York at Buffalo
542 Capen Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-0001
Director, Specialization in Computer &
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Department of Computer Science
Worcester, MA 01609
Professor of English/Comparative Literature
183 Hartley Avenue
Princeton, NJ 08540
Assoc. Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs
304 Tolley Administration Building
Syracuse, NY 13244-1100
Vice President and Director, Center for
Institutional & International Initiatives
American Council on Education
One Dupont Circle, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Dean, Undergraduate Studies
University of Maryland College Park
2130 Mitchell Building
College Park, MD 20742
Executive Vice President
University of Delaware
122 Hullihen Hall
Newark, DE 19716-0160
Dean of Libraries
New York University
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012
Vice Provost for Info. Technologies
The Catholic University of America
200 Leahy Hall
Washington, DC 20064
AT THE TIME OF THE VISIT
The Pittsburgh Academy: 1787
The Western University of Pennsylvania: 1819
The University of Pittsburgh: 1908
First instruction: 1789
First collegiate class: 1822
First degree conferred: 1823
Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer: Mark A. Nordenberg
Chief Academic Officer: James V. Maher, Sr. Vice Chancellor and Provost
Chair of the Board of Trustees: William S. Dietrich II
The University of Pittsburgh has a long and interesting history. Founded as a private in-stitution in 1787, and adopting its current name in 1908, it became a state-supported institution in 1966. By the time of its last self-study report, which focused on the University’s research enter-prise, Pittsburgh had developed a range of distinguished graduate and professional programs, no-tably in medicine, law, and business, and in fields such as philosophy, chemistry, economics, English, history, physics and astronomy, political science, and psychology. It has four regional campuses in western Pennsylvania, in addition to its main campus in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, and serves over 30,000 students through programs in 18 undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools. The University of Pittsburgh is closely affiliated with a separate clinical medical delivery system, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), one of the largest health care systems in the country. Mark Nordenberg became interim Chancellor of the Univer-sity of Pittsburgh in 1995 and was selected permanently for that position in 1996.
For its 2001 reaccreditation, the University of Pittsburgh conducted a “selected topics” self-study that assesses their efforts to improve the quality of undergraduate programs and the overall student experience, as well as the management processes supporting these efforts. The self-study process gave the University the opportunity to examine a broad range of initiatives adopted since the mid-1990s. The Team’s visit, along with a careful read of the self-study re-port, made clear to the Evaluation Team that the institution’s efforts over the last several years had resulted in extraordinary accomplishments, particularly in the areas of improving the under-graduate student body quality, enhancing undergraduate campus life and support, integrating academic and budgetary planning, and strengthening city and Commonwealth relationships. Im-portantly, it is evident that much of the University community understands and appreciates these accomplishments.
The Team also discovered that the University is enjoying a new culture of openness. We heard the words “open processes” and “trust” countless times throughout our visit from various constituencies. This culture clearly emanates from the top—from Chancellor Nordenberg and from Provost James Maher—and has been successfully instilled, in the view of the various con-stituencies, in the other senior administrators, and in the academic leadership. The importance of this cannot be overstated, for it is clear that many of the difficult, but essential, choices and deci-sions that have been made over this period could not have been accomplished in an academic environment without the skill of, and open processes created by, the Chancellor and the Provost.
Even an extraordinary institution like the University of Pittsburgh
has room for im-provement. With that in mind, the Team has made several
suggestions that we believe the Uni-versity leadership will find helpful
as they plan for the future. The Team has not, however, iden-tified
any requirements to meet Commission standards.
I. INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT
A. MISSIONS AND GOALS
The University of Pittsburgh’s mission is clear and well-understood throughout the Uni-versity community. Adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1995, the first item in the University’s mission statement is to “provide high quality undergraduate programs in the arts and sciences and professional fields, with emphasis upon those of special benefit to the citizens of Pennsyl-vania.” Other components of the mission statement include offering quality graduate programs and continuing education programs, the advancement of learning, the transfer of knowledge, and providing a contribution to the “social, intellectual, and economic development” of the commu-nity, locally and worldwide.
A 1996 resolution of the Board, a collaborative product of Board and administration ef-forts, directed the Chancellor to focus on strengthening undergraduate education so that their programs would “compare favorably within the Association of American Universities.” Since the adoption of that resolution, the institution has undertaken a series of initiatives in support of this fundamental goal. We commend the Board, Chancellor, Provost, leaders of each of the aca-demic units, and faculty at large, for the University’s adherence to this mission. There is wide-spread belief in the University community—including the academic units that do not, them-selves, conduct undergraduate programs—that the focus on undergraduate education enhances the reputation of the institution as a whole, benefiting all units. It is generally appreciated that Pittsburgh has made significant progress in the last five years—and this factor undoubtedly con-tributes to the continued acceptance of the University’s primary goals.
The self-study chronicles these efforts to show that the University of Pittsburgh’s stated missions and goals are the driving force behind their achievements in recent years.
The Team is encouraged by the Board’s reaffirmation in 2000 of the goals it set out to accomplish in the mid-1990s. By the time of the University’s next self-study, we expect to see that the undergraduate student experience has continued to improve, alongside improvements in already-solid graduate and professional education, and increasing institutional support of distin-guished research.
B. INSTITUTIONAL INTEGRITY
There exists widespread support and admiration for the University’s
senior leadership. Members of the University community believe strongly
that the institution’s leadership has opened up important processes, such
as academic planning and budgeting, in a way that is much more inclusive
of faculty and staff. Information that enters into the planning processes
is avail-able to all who are interested in becoming or staying informed.
Further the University commu-nity appears to trust that administrative
decision-making is handled in an appropriately inclusive fashion.
The Chancellor and Provost are clearly the leaders in enabling this atmosphere
of trust and openness. Institutional goals and processes are well-understood
by Pittsburgh’s constituen-cies, and the directions being mapped by the
senior leadership are understood and appreciated by the rest of the University
C. ACADEMIC AND INSTITUTIONAL LEADERSHIP
The institution enjoys great autonomy relative to most state-supported institutions. The Board of Trustees, one-third of whose voting members are selected by the governor or the legis-lature, while active in institution-wide policy making, is supportive of the administration, and does not micro-manage the University.
The Chancellor and Provost form a solid team in their leadership of the University of Pittsburgh. They set a tone of cooperation among all the University’s leaders that is enviable. For example, the Team observed collaborations among the academic deans, who work together effectively as an academic team, both among themselves and with the Provost. Among many examples of this are programs in biomedical engineering, informatics, international studies, and general studies, all of which require significant cooperation across schools. Deans also have co-operated in the implementation of potentially divisive steps, such as giving up budgets and fac-ulty lines to the central administration for reallocation based on institution-wide priorities. The cooperative leadership that the deans demonstrate in these processes has carried over to the fac-ulty in a way that allows Pittsburgh to pursue the tough decisions for the greater good of the University—such as a ten percent reduction in the size of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences—without undue worry about the inevitable costs at the school or department level.
We also observe effective use of faculty advice and leadership at the central administra-tion level, while strengthening the realization that the principal role of faculty is in the govern-ance at the school and department level. The central administration is also wisely looking be-yond the University’s own boundaries for potential opportunities to collaborate and improve programs, particularly with Carnegie Mellon University.
D. OUTCOMES ASSESSMENT
The University of Pittsburgh has a wealth of student assessment data in its Office of Insti-tutional Research, including a wide array of current and historical University data, comparative peer institutional data, and the results of many different survey instruments. The structure and composition of the Enrollment Management Committee appears to be an effective model for ini-tiating university-wide assessment. This Committee uses data and survey findings for problem identification and for assessing desired outcomes. It also identifies improvement strategies and develops implementation plans. School assessment activities are extensive and impressive. For example, the Schools of Nursing and Engineering are using “best practices” approaches in the assessment of student attitudes, values, and knowledge and skill development, as well as in the assessment of student acclimation in both the social and academic environments. Indeed, the University’s assessment plan has many successes in the area of undergraduate experience that it does not always appear to appropriately recognize or highlight.
It appears to us that the University-wide assessment plan is not completely developed with respect to procedures (who is responsible for collecting, analyzing and interpreting the data), use of assessment data (who evaluates the findings and assesses whether the outcomes are being achieved), and feedback and improvement (who provides feedback and makes recommen-dations for improvement, and how are strategies implemented). We suggest that the Enrollment Management Committee model could be used to more effectively integrate University-wide is-sues and practices in the assessment of undergraduate students. We also believe the institution might find it beneficial to form a central administration committee that would examine and find ways to adopt existing “best practices” for use University-wide. For example, the University and the various schools might consider adopting the School of Engineering’s effective web-based survey.
Also, we believe that University would find it beneficial to more systematically use benchmark data, peer institutional data, and industry trend data for planning, decision-making, and assessing the undergraduate experience. While acknowledging the rather unique status of the University of Pittsburgh as an institution truly perched between “public” and “private,” and the difficulties this creates in finding a consistently appropriate group of “peer” institutions for com-parison purposes, it is the belief of the team that the University can gain an even better apprecia-tion of its potential, and appropriate goals, in areas such as retention, computer use, student satis-faction, and faculty salaries, to name but a few, by a more systematic approach to benchmarking, “best practices,” and use of institutional research data and analysis of the results of those exer-cises.
II. UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT EXPERIENCE
A. ACADEMIC EXPERIENCE AND PROGRAMS
The undergraduate programs of the University of Pittsburgh, whether viewed from the vantage point of breadth and quality of curricular offerings or from that of the larger sense of the “undergraduate experience,” are impressive in their variety, strength, and fundamental sound-ness. These programs clearly have benefited from the focus on them since the mid-1990s, and the University takes justifiable pride in the strides made in undergraduate education and life in recent years. We are inclined to agree with the senior administrator who defined the most press-ing current institutional challenge as that of “managing the success” quite recently achieved.
With regard to undergraduate education in particular, we got the sense that there is a real “teaching ethos” in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. We mean by that more than the obvious if admirable truth that there are many good undergraduate teachers here. Innovative and dedicated teaching, while by no means universal in practice, commands the attention and genuine respect of faculty leaders, appointments and review committees, and deans. We saw considerable evi-dence—for example in certain initiatives in international education—of the success with which many professors have made a unity, as opposed to a distracting conflict, of their scholarly re-search and their teaching initiatives. In this regard, among others, the Honors College offers dramatic evidence of the extraordinary contribution that can be made with a relatively modest investment of resources deployed without elaborate administrative structure when guided by a sustained, committed, and imaginative faculty leadership. Of particular promise for the continu-ing success of undergraduate education at the University of Pittsburgh is the marked cooperation among faculty of different academic units as evidenced, for example, by the Arts and Sciences faculty modifying certain courses to implement the integrated curriculum of first-year engineer-ing students. In general terms we find that the undergraduate programs have a sound curricular grounding, exhibiting both a conservative “liberal arts” flavor, and one that shows some novelty and the willingness to change.
We noted several other especially impressive achievements in undergraduate
education, including expanded academic options, innovative new Honors College
courses, increased sup-port of the College of General Studies (with higher
admission standards for those students), and nationally recognized educational
reforms in Engineering.
B. CAMPUS LIFE AND STUDENT SERVICES
The Trustees noted last year that one of their essential University goals, improvement of campus life, “had been effectively advanced” over the past five years. The Team agrees. The University community is well served by a series of student services that are well-organized and well-delivered at the unit level. They extend from prospective student recruitment to alumni ac-tivities for graduates. These various services meet the overall needs and interests of the student population and the academic community. Campus life has been improved notably in recent years, in response to specific Trustee directions, campus leadership, and greater commitment to the student experience.
Student organizations and activities, athletics and recreation programs, and University and City of Pittsburgh social and cultural opportunities, greatly supplement the academic experi-ence. Student voices are heard in campus governance and a student fee system provides appro-priate student input and support for student programming. Campus safety and security has been improved through new satellite stations, lighting, emergency telephones, and expanded escort and shuttle services. An enhanced transportation system (shuttle and free access to Allegheny County Port Authority transportation vehicles), “PittArts,” and the interesting, and collaborative, use of Heinz Field in downtown Pittsburgh, have all helped extend the campus for students well beyond the campus community, making the urban environment of the university an asset. The expansion and improvement of the campus residential offerings has been significant, creating many positive impacts on campus life and the overall student experience. The opening of the Petersen Events Center on the site of the old football field will greatly improve student recreation and major events options for students.
Campus collaboration has led to other service improvement initiatives, including the ca-reer development “Pitt Pathway,” Freshman Studies 1, Campus Freshman Year Leadership Team, and an Academic Enhancement program in the residence halls.
The quality of the service program is demonstrated by positive student satisfaction survey results in most key areas. The University also has initiated efforts to improve residence halls and food services, although students (as on many campuses) remain less satisfied with these com-pared to other University services.
In spite of the remarkable successes in improving the student experience, it is still not clear that there is a strong sense of community particularly beyond the freshman year. This may be due, in part, to the reality that, despite robust building of new residence halls, after the fresh-man year (when 90% of the students live in University housing), only a minority of the under-graduates live “on campus.”
We believe the integration of student life into the academic wing of the institution, begun in 1997, is a wise step that is still “in process.” To further that goal, we suggest that the Univer-sity reiterate student affairs and campus life goals to the entire community and particularly to the student-life staff. In addition, during this transition, there has been significant turnover in senior campus life administrative leadership. Stabilized leadership here, with a clear mandate to de-velop stronger academic relationships and partnerships, we believe, would assist final consum-mation of the change begun in 1997. The role of the campus residential community in serving potential educational goals may also merit closer scrutiny than it has so far received even in the welcome “Living/Learning” programs. For example, we applaud the reexamination of the con-cept of “Freshman Studies” that tends toward a combination of the goals of community building and student “socialization” with more explicitly substantive curricular aims. As Pittsburgh works through its other campus life programs, we believe further, and exciting, opportunities ex-ist for using the campus residential community to further educational goals.
While campus life has been notably improved in the campus center itself, the University may wish to engage in some creative thinking to reconcile the possible inherent tensions that ex-ist between the laudable goals of (a) making the opportunities of the city more broadly available and (b) creating a vibrant campus “community.”
C. ADMISSIONS AND RECRUITING
Undergraduate admissions is a great success story of the University of Pittsburgh under its current leaders. The University doubled its freshman applications between 1995 and 2001 from 7,825 to 15,473. Even with an increase in class size over those years, the admissions proc-ess became substantially more selective, with the University accepting 79 percent of applicant in 1995 and 60 percent in 2001. The quality of the students has increased, with the share of stu-dents in the top 10 percent of their class increasing from 21 percent to 37 percent. Average SAT scores have risen from 1139 to 1192. Undergraduate student body size has now recovered from the lean years of the early 1990s, and is viewed by most as at an appropriate—and sustainable—level. Approximately 79% of the students come from Pennsylvania—including, increasingly, eastern Pennsylvania—a figure reflective both of natural trends and the institution’s state-supported nature.
A number of factors have contributed to this success, including solid leadership in Ad-missions, good staff, and hard work. That Admissions has been so successful in spite of its loca-tion in what has been described as dismal space in Bruce Hall (until two years ago when Admis-sions moved into far more suitable—indeed, elegant—space in the newly-renovated Masonic Temple) makes their achievements even more impressive. The institution declared enrollment management a priority in its 1992 report, resulting in the Enrollment Management Committee. This committee was a successful effort to focus campus-wide attention on key institutional is-sues. The Integrated Student Service Project Leadership Team, created in 1996, has been very successful, enhancing the effectiveness of admissions, financial aid, and the registrar’s office through collaboration and systems improvement redesign. Their goal was to deliver the best ser-vice possible to students; assessments of student satisfaction indicate that they have succeeded.
Increasing selectivity has not hurt the University’s efforts to increase diversity in the stu-dent body (see section D below).
The challenge to Pittsburgh is to build on strength. The competition for excellent stu-dents, majority and minority, is likely to escalate. According to the 2000 financial statement, total tuition revenue of $280 million was discounted by $68 million, for a discount rate of ap-proximately 24 percent—low by private standards but reflecting (particularly in-state) the lower tuition associated with being a state-supported school. As it moves forward, the University might want to plan for an environment of increased financial need resulting from a weaker na-tional economy and heightened competition for able students.
The University shows a strong commitment to the recruitment, retention, and graduation of historically underrepresented students, and has achieved success in increasing student diver-sity, particularly with African-Americans. Diversity is viewed as “everyone’s business.” Sev-eral programs are in place that include some pre-college (pipeline) programs that serve 9th thru 12th graders, access and retention program (UCEP), summer bridge programs (e.g. QUEST) for incoming African American and Hispanic students, and student organizations (e.g., Roberto Clemente Minority Business Association). In fall 1999, Pittsburgh initiated the Undergraduate Mentoring Program to foster retention of freshmen and transfer students, particularly minority students, by providing mentoring and support in academics, campus life, and social events.
The University has created several four-year merit-based scholarship programs (e.g., Donald M. Henderson Engineering Scholarship, Robert Lavelle Scholarship, and Helen Faison Scholarship) for minority students as well as several other financial aid programs. Senior cam-pus leaders strongly support diversity initiatives and have provided additional support for the campus diversity efforts.
The number of African-American students has fluctuated since 1995, and now stands at about 10 percent of the undergraduate student body, a solid accomplishment. Other underrepre-sented minorities, such as Hispanics, form a much smaller percentage of the student body. As is the case at most institutions, retention and graduation rates of African-American students lag be-hind that of majority students, although not alarmingly so. We were told that approximately half of the African-American students are out of state, which may make retaining them more difficult.
An area of University concern, as at most universities, is the diversity of its faculty. Al-though some schools have enjoyed modest success in recruiting and retaining faculty from tradi-tionally underrepresented groups, the University of Pittsburgh as a whole has not achieved the success it desires in this area. (We do note, however, significant gender diversity among aca-demic deans.) Given its location and aspirations, we encourage the University to maintain its commitment to faculty diversity and to develop both short- and long-term strategies for im-provement in this area.
The University takes pride in the fact that retention rates are higher now than at any time in the 1990s. The retention rates for first-time freshmen entering in Fall Term 1999 are 85.2%. The comparable retention rate for minority students is 84%, the highest since 1985, the earliest year for which data exist. Each of the colleges and regional campuses has initiated programs to improve academic outcomes and retention.
Several of the colleges have enhanced academic advising—for example Case Manage-ment Advising—that ensures that advising is not limited to discussions of course selection is-sues. Most students in Arts and Sciences will have a professional advisor for two years and a faculty advisor for their final years. It is possible for students in Business Administration and Nursing to have the same advisors for their entire undergraduate careers. Freshman Studies 1 or its equivalent is also an extension of advising in most units.
In addition to the usual set of student organizations, several of the colleges report specific activities designed to increase student-faculty interaction outside the classroom, student leader-ship opportunities, mentoring, and other programs designed to strengthen the connection be-tween students and the campus. Although it is often difficult to measure the short-term impact of these programs, they are consistent with the recommendations that emerge from the student retention literature about the high correlation between student engagement and retention.
While we can acknowledge that the reported retention rates are higher than at any time in recent history, it is difficult for us to benchmark these rates against an appropriate comparison. This is the case for graduation rates as well.
F. LIBRARY AND LEARNING RESOURCES
The libraries at the University of Pittsburgh serve the institution well. The libraries have shared in, and been supported by, the Provost’s academic vision for the University. With strong leadership and staff, good management, commitment to University priorities, and responsiveness to students and faculty, the libraries have made important contributions to the University’s suc-cess in meeting its strategic goals.
The University is home to one of the country’s largest and most active research libraries. By standard Association of Research Libraries size measures, Pittsburgh is in the top 25% of university libraries. Moreover, it is an active library, with both circulation transactions and ref-erence inquiries well above the median, and an exceptionally active instructional program, with more than 1200 presentations in 1999-2000. When its collections are viewed in relation to user base, e.g., by volumes per student or expenditures for serials per faculty member, Pittsburgh ap-pears more “average.”
Over the past five years, the library system has identified and acted upon well-designed initiatives to maintain needed collection strength, expand services to students, improve facilities, enhance and feature the use of its unique collections, and develop electronic resources and the infrastructure of technology and skilled personnel to support them. These initiatives have been thoughtful, successful, and well integrated with University planning.
The libraries also have embarked on a variety of programs to extend resources available to the University of Pittsburgh community through arrangements with other libraries. A recipro-cal program with Carnegie Mellon University enables Pittsburgh students to use the CMU Li-brary as though it was an extension of their own (and vice versa). The library has been aggres-sive in expanding interlibrary loan and related services—such as online borrowing requests to PALCI consortium libraries—and requests for and delivery of library materials among the Pitts-burgh campuses, a program described by users as convenient and thus successful.
The libraries have been attuned to the University priority to improve the undergraduate experience. They have used incremental funding to expand hours, to provide longer hours of reference service, and to expand instructional programs. Librarians have been actively involved in the Freshman Year team, and several librarians teach the Freshman Studies course. A library orientation session is integrated into Freshman Studies, and librarians use that opportunity to reach out to students and give the library a “human face.”
The library as “place” is also an important component of undergraduate life. This is rec-ognized in the University’s facilities plan, which has given high priority to the libraries’ re-quirements for collection space and to renovations in Hillman Library to provide high quality user space that matches contemporary programs. A major accomplishment is the soon-to-be-completed high density, offsite collections storage facility and its adjacent facility for systems and technical processing operations.
The library of the 21st century is increasingly an electronic one, and all research libraries must prepare themselves to handle the transformation. Through internal reallocations, and some external funding, the Pittsburgh library has taken appropriate and effective initial steps to build the technology infrastructure it needs to maintain and deliver electronic collections.
The University may want to take advantage of its University-wide planning processes to advance the goal of expanded delivery of electronic library resources.
G. REGIONAL CAMPUSES, GENERAL STUDIES, AND EXTENSION
The regional campuses (Pitt-Bradford, Pitt-Greensburg, Pitt-Johnstown, and Pitt-Titusville) and General Studies (including extension programs) continue to serve established University goals of providing “high-quality undergraduate programs” and “continuing education programs adapted for personal enrichment, professional upgrading and career advancement” for the benefit of Commonwealth citizens, including adults.
Pitt-Bradford has continued to aggressively build out the campus physical plant, remodel-ing residential townhouses, expanding recreation facilities, and establishing a fine arts center. It has focused on the development of a “community of learners”, enlarged student research oppor-tunities, and promoted student character building, an effort that has been nationally recognized. Also the campus is stabilizing existing academic programs and assessing the viability of new of-ferings.
Pitt-Greensburg has thoroughly and thoughtfully revised the general education program and advising services offered to students. The college also has pursued an innovative and prom-ising approach to the integration of academic and non-academic student life through the devel-opment of a series of academic residential villages and related support programming.
Pitt-Johnstown has enthusiastically embraced a new general education framework, based on key knowledge areas and key competencies. This has led to improvement in academic pro-gram quality (through a framework for curricular review) and improvement in student quality and student learning. The campus also has developed a strong Freshman Network, a multi-unit working group, to greatly improve services to new and “at-risk” students. Perhaps as a result of the program, retention at Johnstown has improved.
Pitt-Titusville has embarked on a new and well-defined enrollment management strategy, working to increase enrollment in certificate and degree programs and to ensure a better institu-tional fit for all enrollees. The strategy includes a focus on new direct students, new options stu-dents, returning students, and part-time students. The campus also has rededicated itself to addi-tional missions of continuing education and regional economic development.
The University has redesigned General Studies and extension programming to meet community needs and interests by providing educational programs and opportunities not readily available elsewhere in the University. The program focus is largely market driven and intention-ally flexible, to address both continuing needs and emerging interests. This includes an appro-priate emphasis on non-credit bearing programs in the community and targeted industry sectors in the region. In addition to providing academic programming, the unit works to provide much-needed support to its non-traditional student populations.
University leaders understand the role of the regional campuses and General Studies. The regional units have significant operating autonomy and make use of it to meet student and community needs and interests in a flexible manner. They make extensive use of technology and library support from the main Pittsburgh campus, but have more limited or a lack of partnerships in other areas.
As the aspirations and accomplishments of the main campus become more
elevated with respect to undergraduate education, we think it important
that the University consider how these aspirations and accomplishments
relate to the significantly different missions and goals of the regional
campuses—similarly to what comparable reflection and action have already
accom-plished between the “traditional” undergraduate program and the “general
studies” program. Re-lated to this, we suggest the University continue
to place an emphasis on enrollment management (recruitment and retention)
at regional sites, as appropriate, to increase greater direct applications
and admissions to the specific regional campus, rather than “options” admits
who are unsuccess-ful applicants to the University’s main campus.
A. ACADEMIC AND FACULTY PLANNING
The University has embraced the ambitious academic and student experience goals de-scribed throughout this report through the integration of sound fiscal and academic planning. In distinction with prior years, in which academic and budgetary planning were largely separate, the University in recent years has consolidated budgeting with academic planning under the Provost. This integration has been very successful. The Provost, in turn, has led the planning efforts through the work of the University Planning and Budget Committee, and in close consultation with the deans.
The key element in the planning process is for each academic dean to articulate the goals of his or her school, the methods of achieving those goals, and the measures of success. To es-tablish the boundary conditions on resources, the Provost and deans establish targets for the school: the expected enrollment, the number of faculty members, the amount of floor space, and the funds for technological enhancements. In addition, the Provost works with each dean to en-sure that the school’s plan is both academically sound and financially sustainable over time. Funds are controlled centrally, but a dean, if he or she can demonstrate sound reasons for enroll-ment growth, may receive 65% of the resulting tuition for school needs and enhancements. Per-haps paradoxically, this increased centralization has led to a feeling among the deans of greater opportunity to lead creatively and in an entrepreneurial manner.
An integral part of the academic planning process is the overall plan for faculty, which begins with the allocation of faculty lines and runs through hiring, promotion, tenure, and retire-ment. The Provost determines the aggregate number of faculty lines for each school, but the distribution of the lines within the school is the responsibility of the dean. In recent years the number of faculty lines has been reduced through a retirement incentive program, notably in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, while others have been redistributed in order to free up resources to meet other pressing institutional needs. That this change could occur so smoothly and could be accepted so well by the faculty testifies to the community’s understanding of the intimate link between academic and fiscal planning and to the recognition of the importance of the overall goals the University is seeking to attain.
Pittsburgh students have for generations enjoyed outstanding faculty members. The insti-tution is working to ensure continuation of this through serious efforts to assure that recently hired faculty members are effective teachers as well as productive scholars. Further, the admini-stration is acutely aware of the importance of competitive faculty salaries. Conscientious evalua-tion of teaching effectiveness and its incorporation into the reward structure seem to be com-monplace. In some schools, new members of the faculty are supported by an effective mentoring system that helps them progress through tenure. Finally, due to the increased quality of the stu-dent body, the improvements to the academic programs and campus life, the unity of the admini-stration, and the openness of the planning and decision-making processes, faculty morale is quite high.
The likelihood that new faculty members will be successful and happy at the University of Pittsburgh will be increased by the creation of a stronger sense of community among them. The University may consider helping departments and schools strengthen their mentoring pro-grams to fit the needs of the individuals and the culture of the various departments and schools, perhaps borrowing from successful examples within the institution where such mentoring al-ready takes place. Also, the University may want to tailor the University-wide orientation pro-gram to better meet the needs of new faculty members, to extend it through the academic year, and to find ways to help expand the new faculty members’ collegial contacts beyond the bounda-ries of their own departments.
While the Team does not have any reason to believe that faculty salaries have not been managed appropriately, or are not generally at an appropriate level, we did sense at least some internal “expectation” that the institution will work to adjust faculty salaries upwards in the near future. We recommend that the institution’s leaders remain cognizant of this expectation and work either to fulfill it or to manage it, again perhaps through appropriately constructed bench-mark information.
B. FACILITIES AND FACILITIES PLANNING
The University is to be commended for the recent progress made in addressing the facil-ity issues facing the campus. In 1997 the University developed a comprehensive ten-year facili-ties plan. Through the first five years of that planning horizon, the institution has followed the plan quite closely. This has been a period of significant new construction and attention to reno-vation and infrastructure needs. Consistent with the University’s attention to the undergraduate experience, the capital plan has focused in large part on facilities used by undergraduates. In-cluded among the accomplishments are a significant addition to residence hall space, major resi-dence hall renovations (including the installation of sprinkler and upgraded fire detection sys-tems), upgraded—and technology-enabled—classrooms, and the addition of new recreational facilities for students. Given its urban location, the University has creatively seized opportuni-ties to acquire other private facilities “on” its Pittsburgh campus, including a hotel (now an ele-gant student union) and the Masonic Temple (now space for science classrooms, as well as ad-missions and alumni relations). The Commonwealth approved a five-year capital funding pro-gram that, at over $100 million, was at the upper end of the University’s expectations. This, along with favorable interest rates, has permitted facilities improvements at a lower cost to the University than originally anticipated.
An additional project contemplated for the next five-year period is a new medical re-search building. The Chancellor and Provost are about to begin lobbying efforts directed toward supporting another five-year capital plan of similar magnitude to the current funding. Because of the deteriorating economy since the time the self-study report was written, there is growing con-cern about the level of Commonwealth support for operations as well as capital funding in the next few years.
The diversity in type and age of the University’s buildings present some clear challenges. While blessed with some truly magnificent buildings—such as the 42-story Cathedral of Learn-ing—their age, and ornateness, pose special maintenance and renovation challenges. There is a significant backlog of deferred maintenance and a growing need for renovations to adopt current technology and meet changing programmatic needs. This will require considerable attention in the coming years, in line with the attention shown over the past half-dozen years.
C. FINANCIAL PLANNING AND INSTITUTIONAL RESOURCES
The University of Pittsburgh is in a healthy financial position and the financial manage-ment of the institution is strong. In each of the last three years there has been significant revenue generated in excess of expenses providing the opportunity to strengthen institutional reserves and to provide funds for capital purposes. Similarly, the endowment fund ended FY01 at $1.1 bil-lion. This is a substantial endowment for a state-assisted university but less than many private institutions of similar stature and, oftentimes, smaller size. An active investment committee of the Board advises the administration on its investment policies. The asset allocation of the en-dowment appears to be appropriately diversified. The endowment spending policy of 4.25% of the trailing twelve quarters is conservative. At the same time, a clause that stipulates that spend-ing for any year cannot be less than the prior year protects the operating budget from a decline in the endowment’s value. We commend the administration for their decision to move $300 mil-lion of short term operating funds into the endowment fund to provide the potential of capital appreciation in addition to the annual income.
The University increased its outstanding debt by approximately 35% in FY01, taking ad-vantage of low interest rates to refinance higher interest debt and to issue new debt for capital purposes. While this has increased the annual debt service by nearly $4.5 million, the University continues to exceed the required debt service coverage requirements by a significant margin.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is a separate corporation. The Medical Cen-ter is in a strong financial position and agreements are in place to protect the University finan-cially should the Medical Center experience financial difficulties. In addition, the Chancellor has worked with the Board and with the leadership of UPMC to rationalize the roles of the Uni-versity, UPMC, and the faculty practice plans, so that clear lines of authority and responsibility are now in place, ensuring both sound financial management and planning as well as ensuring collaboration and cooperation among the various components of the medical delivery system as well as the academic components.
The University should continually review and update its contingency plans to prepare for the eventuality of a change in the level of Commonwealth funding. There was an increase of 1.2% to the base budget and 0.6% to the overall appropriation for FY02 over FY01, with a po-tential reversion of 1% before the end of this fiscal year. The Commonwealth provides $180 million of the total FY02 revenue. While this is about 15% of the total budget, it is 22-23% of the E&G budget and thus is a significant funding source for the general operation of the Univer-sity. If appropriations are flat or decline over the next few years, this will require cost reductions and/or increases in other revenue sources in order to continue to make large-scale improvements to the University.
D. TECHNOLOGY AND TECHNOLOGY PLANNING
Computer Services and System Development (CSSD) is the primary provider of technol-ogy services to the University. CSSD provides centralized computer, network, and telecommu-nications services with an effective program to maintain contact with technology support person-nel in the individual units. The help desk, which is open 24 hours a day, provides a single point of contact for users, and is a valuable resource. The Center for Instructional Development and Distance Education (CIDDE) also provides significant technology support in a variety of areas supporting faculty development, development of instructional materials, and a wide range of me-dia services. These are both well-run organizations that provide much needed services in a highly competent manner.
The technology plan, “An Information Technology Foundation for the 21st Century,” is an impressive tactical document. It lays out a three-year plan that will provide the University of Pittsburgh with an excellent technology infrastructure. The University has committed the neces-sary resources to implement this plan; it is currently in the second of its three years, and slightly ahead of schedule.
Overall, the University is very well served by these organizations.
The University needs a written strategic technology plan that will allow the technology organizations to clarify their objectives, acquire funding, and position staff and resources to be able to carry out their strategic mission. It will also provide vision and goals to aid technology planning throughout the University. The strategic plan should consider whether the current or-ganizational structure, with important technology functions housed in two separate organizations with different reporting structures, is the most efficient way to provide these functions.
The plan also must identify what services and technology will be provided for under-graduate students, and what organization will provide them—CSSD or individual academic units. Some of the individual schools provide impressive computer labs for their students, but CSSD needs to consider whether or not it is providing enough general use computers to the un-dergraduate students, particularly considering the large numbers that do not live in University-supplied residences.
Finally, the plan should address the need for a student information system. Because of the lack of a central student information system, several academic units maintain their own. The longer these individual systems are in use, the more difficult it will be to have these academic units convert to the use of a central system once it is implemented.
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Before our visit to Pittsburgh, the members of the Evaluation Team were
generally aware of the University’s distinguished position and particularly
aware of some of its really notable programs and accomplishments.
We think it is also fair to say that, to a person, we all completed our
visit with a significantly enhanced view of the University’s stature.
The University of Pitts-burgh is a distinguished institution that has made
major strides to bring its undergraduate educa-tion and environment up
to the level of the rest of the institution, and it has done this in a
re-markably collegial and supportive fashion. Furthermore, the integration
of academic and finan-cial planning and extraordinary collegial relations
make possible the contemplation of important, but sometimes painful, decisions
about allocations and priorities. The leadership, faculty, staff,
trustees, and alumni of the University are to be warmly applauded for their