If enrollment at Youngstown State University had remained the same as last year, instead of continuing the downward trend of the past decade, it would have been positive news. Had the university recorded a 1 percent or 2 percent increase, President David Sweet, administrators, faculty and staff would have been justified in taking a bow.
So what do you say when Dr. Sweet announces that the official enrollment numbers for the 2001 academic year reflect a 4 percent increase?
If you're the board of trustees of Youngstown State, you heap praise on the first-year president and give him a pay raise.
"To say that we're pleased would be an understatement," Trustee Joseph Nohra told Sweet during last week's meeting. "If there was any way we could give you more and still be fiscally responsible, we would."
In light of YSU's tight financial situation and the uncertainty of future state funding, we are confident that Sweet would agree that the 3.7 percent pay increase he is receiving is more than adequate recognition for the job he has done so far.
The 12,250 students now on campus reflect an actual increase of 3.9 percent, the largest since 1990.
Sweet's predecessor, Dr. Leslie Cochran, who received pay raises despite declining enrollment, worked to build YSU physically and academically. believing his initiatives would attract students.
Top priority: However, when Sweet took over in July 2000, he made it clear that enrollment would be his top priority and that he wanted everyone on campus to be a part of the campaign.
He talked about the need for a marketing strategy that not only emphasized YSU's attributes, but also assured prospective students that as customers they would receive quality service, both inside and outside the classroom.
Sweet put together a management that Trustee William Knecht characterized as the best one in YSU's history.
"The consensus of the board is that your professionalism has been superior," Knecht told the president. "Not just good, but superior."
But though the 4 percent increase is impressive, what is even more significant is the 6.1 percent jump in the number of students enrolled full time. Full-time enrollment is a major factor in the formula the Ohio Board of Regents uses to distribute public dollars to state colleges and universities.
With the recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling that requires the Legislature to spend about $1 billion a year more on primary and secondary education, funds for higher education may be in jeopardy. But with the increase in the number of full-time students, YSU can easily make the case for its fair share of state dollars.