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The Pitt Success Pell Match Program has invested more than $95 million in low-income students

  • Innovation and Research
  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Pitt-Johnstown

The University of Pittsburgh’s groundbreaking program to support students with financial needs, the Pitt Success Pell Match Program, continues to make education more affordable for Pennsylvania students and their families.

Pitt Success provides students receiving federal Pell Grants additional financial assistance — lowering student debt stress and helping more students access a stellar education. Since the program’s launch in 2019, the University has invested $95.6 million in supporting Pell Grant recipients. It is the largest restructuring of financial aid in the University’s 235-year history and the first initiative of its kind among public universities.    

Based on the latest data, there are two signs that the program is working: While Pell-eligible students are at a greater risk of dropping out of college, Pitt Success has moved the needle and improved retention rates to over 90% on the Pittsburgh campus. In addition, Pell-eligible students who came to Pitt campuses in the fall of 2019 have so far taken on 24% less debt than the classes before them.

“The Pitt Success Pell Match Program offers important assistance to students most in need. Our data tells us that this effort continues to have tangible results, giving eligible students on all Pitt campuses additional support to help ensure their highest aspirations,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd.

On average, students receive a match of $5,586, taking their Pell total to $11,172 in financial support.

The program is one of many initiatives driving the University toward meeting its strategic priority of creating an inclusive and equitable campus environment and extending support to help students graduate on time, secure meaningful employment and realize early career success.

Supporting first-generation students and veterans

Olivia Los, a first-year computer science major attending the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, said the matching grant program made choosing to attend Pitt a “no brainer.”

“I made my decision based on if I could sustain the tuition payments for the four years it will take me to complete my undergraduate degree,” she said.

[Pitt received a $1 million to support limited-income, first-generation students.]

Los, who commutes to the Pitt-Johnstown campus, is just one of the 1,400 students attending Pitt’s regional campuses who are Pitt Success recipients — 81% of whom are from Pennsylvania.

She is also a first-generation college student passionate about making higher education affordable.

“Sometimes potential students think that college isn’t an option because they come from families that don’t have money, but the Pitt Success program shows us that anyone can attend college,” she said.

The matching grant program is also a lifeline for military veterans pursuing a Pitt degree.

“The Pitt Success program has helped relieve our veteran community’s significant financial burdens,” said Aryanna Hunter, director of Pitt’s Office of Veteran Services.

[From first-generation to graduation.]

“Many of our student veterans are non-traditional, first-generation students who have children, making it difficult to attend classes full-time and causing financial challenges. With the support of the Pitt Success program, 107 student veterans here at the University receive just over $400,000 in support,” she said.

While Pitt has grown its investment in students, Pennsylvania continues to rank near the bottom in most measures of state support for higher education. The Pitt Success program is one of many of the University’s affordability initiatives to address the gap, including Panthers Forward, Pittsburgh Public Scholars, the Pittsburgh Admissions Collaboration, Pitt Fund$Me, Coalition for College and Raise Me.

Pitt Success by the numbers

6,000+ students have received a boost from the program.

68% of Pitt Success grants benefit Pennsylvania residents.   

30% of students at the University’s regional campuses are Pell recipients.

$11,172: the average grant size, including both the match and the federal Pell Grant.


— Nichole Faina