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In 2019, the University of Pittsburgh launched an innovative effort to expand access to a world-class education for students from lower-income families, addressing the financial hurdles that can keep some students from coming to Pitt or hamper their ability to complete their studies.
The Pitt Success Pell Match program, includes two components: a full match of federal Pell grant scholarships, effectively doubling the value of this need-based aid, and a commitment — phased in over several years — to limit the amount of debt any student is expected to take on, based on studies that show a drop-off in college completion for those who need to take out larger loans.
As Pitt Success Pell Match enters its third academic year, meaningful indicators show that the program is delivering on its objectives. Even through a pandemic and the economic uncertainty that has come with it, Pitt has been able to expand the representation of Pell-eligible students, nearly eliminate the gap in retention rates between Pell recipients and those who do not require this aid and measurably reduce the debt students take on in their first years at the University.
Some of the impressive outcomes include:
- Providing opportunity: Since the introduction of Pitt Success, the University has attracted record numbers of Pell-eligible applicants and enrollees. Preliminary figures for this year’s entering class show an increase of almost 24% in the number of Pell-eligible students over the previous year, making for a 70% increase since launching the program in 2019.
- Reducing debt: Pell-eligible students who entered Pitt in the fall of 2019 took on 24% less debt in their first year than those who entered the year prior.
- Closing the retention gap: Since the program was introduced, the student retention rate for Pell-eligible students rose from 86.9% to 93.4%, which essentially mirrors the rate for students who are not Pell-eligible.
“The Pitt Success Pell Match Program is working in truly impressive and transformative ways to help ensure that an excellent Pitt education is accessible for admitted students and their families,” said Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor Ann E. Cudd. “We continue to be laser-focused on taking active steps to address financial obstacles so that our students can realize their professional and personal aspirations — and we now have the data to show that this program not only lowers barriers to access and improves retention, but also lessens the debt burden our students will face when they graduate.”
More affordability initiatives
The University of Pittsburgh has launched several other affordability efforts to help students including Panthers Forward, Pittsburgh Public Scholars, the Pittsburgh Admissions Collaboration, Pitt Fund$Me, Coalition for College and Raise Me.