By RON COLE
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Thirty-five vacant positions at Youngstown State University will not be filled for at least a month as part of a hiring freeze caused by a budget crunch on campus and in Columbus.
Dr. G.L. Mears, YSU executive vice president, issued the hiring freeze May 23. It will remain until at least the end of June.
"Only positions that critically impact enrollment or the safety of the campus will be considered for an exception," Mears said in a memo.
Unfilled positions: YSU President David Sweet said the university has 17 vacant faculty positions and 18 vacant nonfaculty positions that will not be filled.
"We have a hold on them all," he said.
Dr. Barbara Brothers, dean of YSU's arts and sciences college, said she's not sure how many positions in her college, if any, will fall under the freeze.
She said the college's staffing is "at a bare minimum."
"For the last two years, we have not filled positions unless we felt a department simply couldn't function without those positions," she said.
Sweet said the freeze will be re-evaluated as the state budget picture in Columbus clears.
Looking ahead: That picture appears to be darkening for YSU and other Ohio public universities and could force YSU trustees to reconsider a tuition plan they approved earlier this year.
The Ohio General Assembly is expected to approve a $45 billion, two-year budget next week that gives YSU much less than the university anticipated just a month ago.
Nearly half of YSU's $100 million annual general fund budget comes from state subsidies; the other half is generated by student tuition and fees.
YSU had hoped for a 2-percent or $1 million increase in basic state subsidies for the 2001-02 budget.
It appears, however, that the state budget will include an increase of about 1.6 percent or about $730,000 for YSU, Sweet said. And that amount could drop as the House-Senate conference committee finalizes the state spending bill, he said.
Access Challenge: YSU could take an even harder hit in Access Challenge, a budget line item earmarked to make college more affordable.
In March, YSU trustees approved a tuition plan that slightly reduced tuition for hundreds of students based on a projection that the university would receive $1.1 million in Access funds in 2001-02.
The Senate version of the state budget, however, would give YSU $203,000 in Access funds, less than the $233,000 the university received this year.
"That's obviously one area we need to work on," Sweet said.
If Access funds are drastically reduced, YSU trustees may need to revamp the tuition plan approved in March.
"That's what we're reviewing right now," Sweet said. "I think it would be premature to comment on that until we get the final numbers."
Will review situation: YSU trustees' budget committee will meet next week to review the situation.
The university hopes it can increase enrollment this fall by 5 percent to ease the budget crunch.
One of the leaders of the enrollment push notified Sweet this week that he is leaving. Bassam Deeb, executive director of enrollment management, will become vice president of student affairs at West Liberty State College in Wheeling, W.Va. His last day at YSU is July 6.