'It is, to say the least, a very difficult time for all of us,' YSU's president said.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The weather outside DeBartolo Hall at Youngstown State University was dark, dreadful and depressing.
The message inside was about the same.
For 90 minutes Wednesday afternoon, YSU President David Sweet outlined a budget picture that he described as both bad and sad.
About 100 students and members of the staff and faculty sat and listened in DeBartolo Hall's auditorium. Many left shaking their heads.
"It doesn't look too good, does it?" Randy Matters, a junior from Boardman, said as he walked out of the gloomy meeting room into the gloomy afternoon rain.
"That was kind of depressing, wasn't it?" chimed in his girlfriend, Cindi Flakes, a sophomore from Wooster.
Changes coming: YSU trustees will vote next week on a package of actions to make up for a $3 million loss in funding from the state.
Although specifics have not been made public, the actions will include a midyear increase in student tuition and fees, cuts in spending across campus and dipping into the university's reserve funds.
Some vacant jobs may not be filled, but there will be no layoffs for now, Sweet said.
"It is, to say the least, a very difficult time for all of us," Sweet said.
Wednesday's meeting was the first of three campus gatherings this week in which Sweet is explaining in detail the state's financial crisis and how it will affect YSU.
Blames state leaders: Sweet laid most of the blame at the feet of state leaders, noting that tuition at Ohio's public universities ranks 12th highest while state support ranks 40th in the nation.
"For decades, the state of Ohio has been disinvesting in higher education," he said.
Sweet said state budget crises come and go, "but what is different this time is the attitude and environment in Columbus."
Sweet said lawmakers today equate a college education with a toll road: You have to pay, and pay dearly, to go.
"That is a dramatic shift in terms of public policy," he said.
Cuts by state: Gov. Bob Taft has announced $448 million in budget cuts to make up for a shortfall in revenue this fiscal year. Nearly $250 million, or 54 percent, will come from higher education.
That translates into a $3 million loss in state revenue for YSU this year. If the economy continues to weaken, the state could slice even more. "We have to be prepared for that," Sweet said.
The president said YSU's operations already are very lean. YSU spends $10,387 per full-time student, the least among the state's 13 four-year public universities, he said.
"We don't have a lot of loose change rolling around in our treasury," he said.
Trustees at five other Ohio public universities already have approved midyear tuition increases to help offset state subsidy losses.
YSU's annual, full-time tuition of $4,348 ranks 11th lowest in the state. Sweet said the university will set up a $200,000 fund to help students with the midyear tuition increase.