Pitt streamlines admissions to master’s programs for recent grads

By Rebecca Johnson, Senior Staff Writer

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The coronavirus pandemic has left much of the country uncertain about their employment, not to mention future job prospects for the just-graduated class of 2020. According to NBC News, the current job market is the worst since the 2008 recession with more than 30 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits in the last five weeks.

In response to this bleak market, Pitt launched the Pitt2Pitt program, which loosens entry requirements for 39 master’s programs in 11 schools for undergraduate students graduating this year. Graduates from both the Pittsburgh and regional campuses are eligible to apply for the new round of later application deadlines.

Nathan Urban, the vice provost for graduate studies and strategic initiatives, said because of the high caliber of Pitt graduates, this “streamlined” process was warranted due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“The job market is going to be pretty tough for our new graduates,” Urban said. “Because we already know the high quality of our graduating undergraduate students and programs, we don’t need as much information as applications [normally] require.”

Pitt will conduct the programs either through instruction held online, in-person or a mixture of both options at the discretion of the programs. But Urban said this would change depending on pending the University’s upcoming decision in early July about plans for the fall semester.

“Those are the ways in which those programs were designed. It might be that the preferred method is hybrid or in-person or whatever,” Urban said. “But, if the University is done 100% online in the fall, then they will be done online.”

To apply, Urban said prospective students must first meet the GPA requirement set by each program, which ranges from a cumulative average of 3.0 to 3.5. Some programs also require a specific undergraduate degree or coursework, as well as a letter of recommendation. The GRE component of all applications was also waived under Pitt2Pitt.

Students can select the program on the program’s website, which will direct them to an application. Deadlines are primarily at the end of May to the beginning of August. Interested students can learn more information during a Thursday virtual recruiting fair held from 4 to 6 p.m. on Zoom from 4 to 6 p.m.

Under Pitt2Pitt, Urban said about 20 students in each program will qualify for a $2,500 to $5,000 scholarship. The $2,500 amount is typically for in-state students and the $5,000 for out-of-state students. But Urban said there is an exception if the difference between the tuition for in-state and out-of-state students is less than $2,500. In this case, he said, the scholarship would be less than $5,000.

“There are some programs where the difference between in-state and out-of state [tuition] is less than $2,500,” Urban said. “The scholarship won’t be $5,000. It will be whatever it needs to be so after the scholarship the in-state and out-of-state tuition is the same.” 

Urban said this also applies if in-state and out-of-state tuition for a participating graduate program is identical. 

“If the in-state and out of state tuition for a program is identical the scholarship would be $2,500,” Urban said. “Regardless if you’re in-state or out-of-state.”

After the program confirms an applicant’s GPA, Urban said they will then be given a link to apply for the scholarship.

The Master’s in Library and Information Science through the School of Computing and Information is one program where the tuition rates for in-state and out-of-state students are the same. For a Pennsylvania resident attending college full-time, this program cost $12,371 per semester during the 2019-20 academic year, if taken in-person or online. The tuition was identical for an out-of-state student, but only if taken online.

Elizabeth Mahoney, the associate chair of the Information Culture and Data Stewardship Department, said she learned of the Pitt2Pitt program approximately three weeks ago. Since then, she said the MLIS program has rapidly shifted their application requirements. The program used to require an application, Curriculum Vitae, two letters of reference and transcript, but now only asks for a GPA of 3.0 or above and an application submitted before June 1.

Mahoney said there are about 20 available spots in the MLIS program under Pitt2Pitt, but only a few students have met with her so far. She said she is excited to meet with more prospective students and teach them the many opportunities available for librarians.  

“I’m excited about this because it gives me the opportunity to talk to more students,” Mahoney said. “Students are able to come in and find a niche that suits them and matches their undergraduate program interest.”

In some graduate schools, such as the Graduate School of Public Health, the difference in tuition between in-state and out-of-state students is much wider. While tuition for a full-time Pennsylvania student was $13,795 per semester during the 2019-20 academic year, tuition for a full-time out-of-state student was $23,407.

To help cover the cost, Cindy Bryce, the associate dean for student affairs at Pitt Public Health, said Pitt will increase scholarships to $4,000 to $10,000 total, including the portion offered by the University. Bryce said Pitt Public Health currently does not have an explicit cap on the number of seats available in their master’s of public health or science programs, but will notify students if it is reached.

Bryce added Pitt Public Health that feels confident loosening its requirements because of the quality of a Pitt undergraduate education.

“The programs that chose to participate are all confident with the undergraduate education that these applicants received, because they received it here,” Bryce said.