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Pitt-Greensburg hops on scholarship trend |

Pitt-Greensburg hops on scholarship trend

Keith Barnes
| Saturday, January 9, 2016 9:00 p.m
Sean Stipp | Trib Total Media
Students walk on the Hempfield Twp. campus of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg on Nov. 20, 2015.

As part of its fight for a larger share of a shrinking market of high school graduates, the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg is joining a growing number of schools offering scholarship competitions.

School officials said they are seeking applications for four-year, full-tuition scholarships that will be awarded to three incoming freshmen at its Hempfield campus this fall.

“Pitt-Greensburg is committed to providing an outstanding Pitt education at an affordable cost,” said university President Sharon P. Smith. “It is clearly a strategy to attract a really strong student.”

The establishment of the award follows a decade of enrollment declines at the campus that counted 1,562 undergraduate students last fall, down from 1,918 in 2003.

Many schools bask in the publicity surrounding these scholarship competitions.

Seton Hill University in Greensburg, which awards several competitive four-year, full-tuition scholarships annually, makes a media event of the presentation when recipients are surprised at their high schools with giant replica checks.

Most elite private universities and public flagship schools, such as the main campuses of Penn State and Pitt, which draw from a nationwide pool of students, are attracting record applicants.

But regional public universities and small private schools have been stung by the shrinking pool of high school graduates in the Northeast.

“That is what is happening to us. It is the demographic. Certainly, the price has been a concern everywhere,” Smith said.

Penn State, which has experienced similar metrics at its Western Pennsylvania branch campuses, launched an ad campaign three years ago touting new academic awards at those campuses.

Pitt and Penn State also froze branch campus tuition.

Undergraduate base tuition at Pitt-Greensburg is $12,452 this year, compared to $17,922 at Pitt in Oakland. Tuition at Penn State’s University Park campus is $16,572, compared to $12,718 at its New Kensington campus.

Pitt-Greensburg has limited applications for the scholarships to students accepted as of Feb. 1. The deadline to apply for the scholarships is Feb. 5.

The school is among a number of colleges and universities dangling merit-based scholarships in an effort to bump up declining enrollment.

Tiny Marlboro College in Vermont, where total enrollment numbered just under 200 this fall, has taken that strategy one step further.

The school’s Renaissance Scholars program will award a full-tuition scholarship to a student in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico this fall.

The deadline for applications is Friday. A Marlboro spokesman said information on the scholarships — valued at $38,000 per year and renewable for four consecutive years — is available at renaissance.

Mark Kantrowitz, a college aid expert who has testified before Congress on the topic, publishes, a top college admission and scholarship search website.

Kantrowitz said merit scholarship offers are becoming more widespread as the competition for students increases.

“We see colleges doing more academic scholarships. It’s only a handful of scholarships, so it’s not very expensive. About 200 to 300 colleges have some form of a full-tuition scholarship, ranging from a handful of scholarships to a few dozen,” Kantrowitz said.

“It helps improve the quality of students they attract,” he added. “When you look from college to college and the differences are not so much faculty or campus, getting a few more talented students on campus can enhance the experience of all the students.”

“We’re excited,” Smith said about the Pitt-Greensburg program. “We think this is the right move to let these kids know what an extraordinary experience (UPG) is. Here students are part of a world-class university, but they have the intimacy of a small campus.”

Information about the Pitt-Greensburg scholarship is available at

Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or

Categories: Westmoreland
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