YSU's next president
is uniquely qualified
In selecting Dr. David Sweet of Cleveland to be the next president of Youngstown State University, members of the board of trustees have sent a strong message to Columbus: YSU will no longer accept the crumbs when higher education state dollars are being distributed.
As an "open admission" urban university, YSU faces challenges that cannot be met without the sustained involvement of the state.
Thus, in unanimously appointing Sweet to succeed Dr. Leslie Cochran, who is retiring in July after eight years, the board of trustees has drawn a line in the sand.
Their confidence in the president-to-be is justified.
Experience: Sweet, dean of Cleveland State University's College of Urban Affairs, has vast experience in dealing with the Ohio Board of Regents and the General Assembly. He gained first-hand knowledge of the inner workings of state government as the director of development in the administration of Democratic Gov. John Gilligan and as commissioner of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio under Republican Gov. James Rhodes.
His understanding of the challenges facing Youngstown State and other open admission universities in Ohio was clearly evident during his visit to the campus as part of the presidential selection process. Sweet told a gathering of business and community leaders that he would move quickly to form a consortium of the open admission institutions, so they could lobby for state dollars from a position of strength.
Funding formula: In addition, he intends to push for a change in the formula the board of regents uses to fund public universities and colleges. His goal is to increase the allocation for undergraduate courses and also to ensure that YSU receives financial backing for the remediation program it is forced to maintain because many area high school graduates are unprepared for college.
But Sweet's strength isn't just political. Through his position at Cleveland State, he has learned the importance of forging close ties with the alumni association, the business community, citizens groups and local governments.
We are particularly encouraged by his commitment to quickly develop a strategy for building enrollment, which has been on the decline for several years, and for increasing the student retention rate.
Two-year degrees: In this regard, we strongly endorse his plan to revive the two-year degree program. The university's student population is primarily drawn from a five-county area in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, and a significant number have full-time jobs. For them, college is a means to an end: higher salaries, promotions, or greater job opportunities.
That said, we would remind the new president that the baccalaureate and graduate degree programs are not only important to YSU, but are an essential tool in the Mahoning Valley's economic revitalization effort.
We are confident that Dr. Sweet will win over those members of the university community who have voiced concern that he lacks academic stature.
As YSU trustees Chairman Bruce Beeghly put it, "The selection of a new president represents a new start. But now the hard work must begin."
Job well done: Beeghly and the eight other trustees deserve the Mahoning Valley's thanks for a job well done. The search for a successor to Dr. Cochran took a year. The openness with which it was conducted, the success it had in attracting candidates of high quality and level of access the community was given to those candidates should be a model for other public institutions.