YSU's president doesn't think increased tuition will affect enrollment as long as the university offers a good education.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
and IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITERS
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State University administrators aren't limiting themselves in their hunt for ways to fund employee pay raises.
"Everything's on the table at this point," President David Sweet said Thursday.
The faculty union thinks the university will find a way.
"The costs are going to be much less than what's being predicted," said John Russo, union president.
The union voted 192-19 Thursday to accept a three-year contract agreement giving faculty 3.5-percent annual raises each year and a $1,000 lump-sum payment.
YSU trustees were to meet at 5 p.m. today to vote on the contract.
Classified employees accepted a three-year deal last week calling for 3-percent annual raises and bonuses of up to $600 for increases in enrollment.
Russo thinks the university will be able to save money in the near future by hiring lower-paid faculty members to replace higher-paid ones who retire. Several faculty members are nearing retirement.
The total cost of all staff wage and benefit raises will increase the university's budget by $2.6 million this school year, Sweet said. The university has set aside $2 million.
Russo noted that a fact-finder's report determined the raises are affordable, but Sweet said the university most likely will have difficulties paying for the raises and administrators will be looking to "diversify our funding streams."
Some additional money could come in the unlikely event there is a change in the amount of state money that was allocated to state universities this year, Sweet said. Nine got unexpected cuts in state money in July, and six got unexpected gains.
Sweet said chief financial officers of those universities have been invited to a meeting in Columbus today to talk about the winners' sacrificing some of their increases to the losers, but he doubts that will happen.
Request of board
The university presidents, however, also will make a pitch to the Ohio Board of Regents to reconsider allocations, Sweet said.
Sweet said YSU also could use $1 million in strategic initiative funding, money from the marketing budget and $960,000 from the one-time sale of Anthem stock.
In addition, it will institute a "selective hiring freeze" that calls for all new hires to be approved by Sweet.
The president said he agreed to the raises in part to avoid a strike. He said a strike threat appeared to affect enrollment figures.
The faculty union said it would strike Monday, the first day of classes, if they didn't have a new contract. A plan for a one-year contract with a small raise or wage freeze was rejected by the union, he said.
Sweet said YSU could have afforded the raises without additional money if the state hadn't reduced funding by $2.7 million for 2002-03 in addition to an earlier $3 million cut.
Trustees approved an 8.9-percent tuition increase to help defray the $3 million cut. YSU's $4,996 annual tutition remains the lowest among Ohio's 11 state-funded four-year universities.
Sweet said further tuition increases shouldn't affect enrollment, as long as students get a quality education. He said there is no evidence showing local students want to attend lower-priced schools.
"We are operating the university in the context of 'times have changed," he said. "On the other hand ... I believe our number-one objective is building our enrollment base. To do that, tuition is important. But more important is the programs we offer. That has to be a key focus."
Sweet said he respects the faculty and expects it to continue to offer an education that will help the university reach a goal of increasing enrollment by making students want to stay.
"The primary responsibility for faculty is to be effective teachers. We will solve our enrollment problem overnight if we increase our retention of students," he said.