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'Vibrant' City Attracts More University Students

As a new academic year begins today for many universities, a lot of students are attending their first ever college classes.

Various Pittsburgh universities reported either an increase in the number of freshmen this year or the number of applications they received - a continuation of a trend that began years ago.

Marc Harding, chief enrollment officer, said the University of Pittsburgh has about 3,900 freshmen starting this fall - about the same as last year - but that’s not because the same amount of people applied.

“We had a record number of applications this year, I can tell you that,” Harding said. “We’ve received over 30,000 applications for our freshmen class of 3,900, so I would say that we are selective admission.”

At Point Park University, about 600 freshmen will attend this fall, up from 477 last year – about a 16 percent increase.

Currently, Carnegie Mellon University has 1,489 freshmen this year, up 24 from last year.

With 880 freshmen, Jonathan Potts, director of public relations, said Robert Morris University actually aimed to just manage, not grow, its number of freshmen after a record of 980 last year.

“Our applications were up about 900 more applications, and percentage wise that’s about a 28 percent increase,” Potts said. “So we definitely had more people applying.”

However, Duquesne University hit its record last year with 1,547 freshmen and has 1,360 first-year students this year.

So why are more students applying to Pittsburgh universities?  Other than success with personal initiatives and tweaks to programs, Point Park and Pitt credited their increase to the city.

“It’s a classic American city, and we advertise Pittsburgh as our campus quite heavily,” Gary Bracken, Point Park vice president for enrollment management, said. “People found it attractive, people found it safe, parents don’t mind sending their students to an urban environment like Pittsburgh, there’s so much to do here that it attracted students who wanted to be in the middle of a vibrant city.”

Harding said first and foremost, students going to college look at the academics, but that’s only part of the college experience.

“From there, they’re looking at all the other stuff – the living environment, the opportunities to get involved, the leadership opportunities, the opportunities to go study abroad, the opportunity to become engaged in the community, to do extracurricular things, to do internships or co-ops,” Harding said.

He said the city of Pittsburgh gives them a chance to combine their academics with the engaging community.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.