Pittsburgh-area colleges resume classes, working to provide best education possible

PITTSBURGH — The reality is, the pandemic hit Pittsburgh-area colleges and universities hard.

“We’re all happy the students are back. It’s been a rough year and a half,” said Caifornia University’s Interim President Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, who has a doctorate in education.

On the campus of California University of Pennsylvania, its interim president known as “Dr. Dale” may often be found chatting with students in the Quad and helping them find their way to class.

“The joy on peoples’ faces was really quite telling. People are just happy to be back,” said Pehrsson.

Pehrsson is interim president of California University, but also leads Clarion and Edinboro universities.

The three state schools merged into one for financial reasons.

Some missed out on room and board, and were forced to invest in digital technology, even handing out thousand of laptops.

University hospitals lost big business when elective surgeries were put on hold.

Students and families are paying for that hit.

Pitt, Penn State, Duquesne, Robert Morris, Chatham all raised tuition from 2% to 6.5%.

Some students said last year was full price for a less than a full education.

“Last year I spent the majority of the time in our dorms,” said Pitt student Ally Voutsines.

“I didn’t go to a single in-person class last year. It just wasn’t the same,” said Pitt student Rachel Keyser.

Carnegie Mellon didn’t raise tuition this year, but it did increase it nearly 4% last year.

Carlow, Washington & Jefferson and California University’s tuition remained the same.

“We chose not to raise tuition and this is the third year we’ve frozen it. Because we know our students were suffering with our financial commitments. Families are as well,” said Pehrsson.

Money was the reason Robert Morris University’s Division I men’s and women’s ice hockey programs were chopped.

The university says that if a few million can be raised by December, the teams could eye a comeback for the 2022-2023 season.

While the last school year was anything but a traditional college experience, this year holds some uncertainty.

There’s hope things are starting to turn around as students return to campus and in-person classes.

“Mainly making friends. I’ve made a lot more friends in my first day, which is great,” said California University sophomore Angelique Troy-Catom.

“Last year was very limited. This year it hasn’t been as limited and I’m hoping it stays kind of lenient — we went through that,” said Pitt student D.J. Heim.