President Don Green discusses tuition, equity and COVID-19

The president reflects on the fall semester and provides updates on plans for the spring



New Point Park President Don Green at Point Park University in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Megan Gloeckler)

Written By Amanda Andrews and Jake Dabkowski

In an exclusive interview with the Globe, President Donald Green spoke about his experiences and observations during his first semester, the recently announced tuition increases, the ongoing pandemic, as well as his plans for working with the Office of Equity and Inclusion.

Reflections on The Fall Semester

The Fall 2021 Semester was Green’s first semester as president. He replaced former President Paul Hennigan through a transitional period during the summer of 2021. Green took some time during the interview to reflect on his experience throughout the first semester.

“I have a far better understanding of the university as a whole and really appreciate all of the amazing amenities and opportunities that we have here at the institution,” Green said. “Over the previous semester, I certainly met with a wide variety of students and student groups, but I also had… smaller meetings with faculty and staff so that I can better learn who they were and have conversations with them about their priorities for the institution.”

Green has received praise from students and the university community over his hands-on approach.

“So far, my interactions and conclusions about Doctor Green have been great,” Sarah Juba, a junior early education major, said. “I met him over the summer for a PR event from admissions when I worked there, and I learned a lot about him. I have seen him serve food
at events, connect with students and so much more.”

One thing Green said he’d like to focus on improving is the graduation rate at Point Park.

In 2015, Point Park had a graduation rate of 61%, according to the latest Disclosure of Institutional Graduation/Completion
Rates on their website. This is slightly lower than the National Center for Education Statistics’ nationwide average graduation rate of 63% (although they measure bachelor’s education as six years instead of four).

Green said he visited every City and University Life class last semester to discuss the importance of graduation.

“It seems simple but honestly, there are many, many students every year who attend college but never graduate,” Green said. “And so that’s why it was extremely important to me as well that I went to everyone in the university classes so we could talk about making sure that they graduate and then talking about some of the success skills that are necessary to be able to graduate [such as] building strong relationships with your faculty.”

Office of Equity & Inclusion

In August, when Green first spoke with The Globe, he was very adamant about taking steps to improve the status of diversity and inclusion at the university. During the fall semester, there were little to no new university-wide announcements about diversity
and inclusion initiatives, but Green said he partly attributed this to the unique obstacles the pandemic has created and has plans involving diversity for the future.

“Certainly COVID and having people at a distance has certainly slowed down some of the opportunity to meet and to build those relationships,” Green said. “But one of the things I’m most excited about is that…the Office of Equity and Inclusion is working with
the president’s office to create a multicultural student organization, ISLA [which stands for] Inclusive Student Leadership
Association. So the purpose of that organization is to assist in establishing a strong university community, and we want to provide opportunities and experiences inclusive of underrepresented and traditionally marginalized communities.”

A date for when ISLA will be established was not immediately given, but the president added that he is planning on addressing diversity within the hiring process and will be looking into ways so that “employee population should mirror our student population and the community at large.”’

Before the proposed development of ISLA and inclusive hiring strategies, the university had instated steering committees after multiple students, particularly in the Conservatory of Performing Arts, had raised issues with the university’s handling of diversity in multiple situations, including within stage productions, two years ago. Those committees had been headed by Hennigan until his retirement last spring.

Andrews: “I know that there were commissions for Equity and Inclusion within COPA, and there was supposed to be a university wide one. Are those still active?”

Green: “I think in the presidential transition, most things have slowed down so I am recharging them and building those back. I want to make sure that we do that. I think it’s extremely important.”

A few days following the interview with The Globe, the Office of the President stated in an email to all students, staff and faculty on Monday that “our University wide Steering Committee is a vibrant aspect of our Equity & Inclusion strategy” but that this month’s
meeting would be canceled amid plans to restructure that strategy. One of the changes that is being made, per the announcement, is that Green will now have direct oversight over the Office of Equity and Inclusion, which had formerly only reported directly to the Director of Title IX and Diversity, Vanessa Love.

“Working with Vanessa and Dr. Michael Soto, we plan to provide additional updates and clarity related to the Office of Equity and Inclusion and the Center for Inclusive Excellence through the course of this semester,” Green stated in the email on Monday.

Tuition Increases

Over winter break, Green announced that there would be a 3% increase in tuition and a 2% increase in room and board costs for the 2022-23 academic year. Fees will not be increasing. Green pointed to inflation as a key cause of this increase.

“The most important piece to it is, if you’ve been following the national economy, inflation is kicking in big time,” Green said. “We’re actually seeing that most tuition indicators are seeing a 5-7% increase in the cost of various goods and services. We knew that there was
no way that we could pass that on to students. So what we’re really trying to do is be as efficient as we possibly can about operations in school, and so we felt that 3% was reasonable in a time with 5-7% inflation.”

Another reason given for the tuition increase was lower enrollment due to the ongoing pandemic.

“When you look at our enrollment numbers pre-pandemic, you’ll see obviously we had a drop during the pandemic,” Managing Director of University Marketing and Public Relations Lou Corsaro said. “When you have that drop it sticks with the university for at least four years. So that kind of transfers from year to year.”

Green also cited concerns that the pandemic has led to would-be students deciding to opt out of a college education, which leads to greater strain on the institutions, and, he said, less financially stable outcomes for those individuals.

“There’s some real worry about the effect that’s going to have on the country and of those students in their future,”
he said.

Students who remain enrolled in Point Park are aware of the current constraints but expressed some frustration with the increases.

“With the increase of tuition and room and board, I am upset. It isn’t ideal to have to pay more, although I also understand why,” Juba said. “With COVID and enrollment down, they are losing money. So although I don’t agree, I understand, it’s life, things happen I don’t agree with but I have to understand.”

Return to Campus Amid Omicron

The return to campus from winter break came as the country and region experienced a historic surge in COVID-19 cases. On January 3, the Office of the President sent out an email confirming that the spring semester would start fully in-person for traditional on-ground

“I’m so proud of our students,” Green said. “There’s been no blowback, no anger, no, you know, revolt against masks, all of those kinds of things. Students have been cool about that. They’ve been very responsible about choosing to get tested.”

Despite rising Omicron cases, Point Park only has 14 active positive cases in isolation as of Monday. Green credits Point Park’s high vaccination rate for the low number of cases.

“[It’s] 93% and then the other ones were medical or religious, and that wasn’t a rubber stamp,” Green said, “We actually pushed for actual confirmation about either medical or religious requirements.”

The university is urging students who see people on campus not following the guidelines laid out in the Operations Manual for Returning to
Campus to contact the Student Health office.

“I would say that to students who see stuff like that that concerns them, we absolutely want them to let the Student Health Office know,” Corsaro said. “It’s something we can handle but at the end of the day, you know, we can’t be everywhere.”