It has been six years since the Mahoning Valley was represented on the Ohio Board of Regents and in that time, Youngstown State University has had to absorb major reductions in state funding. One may not be directly related to the other, but we are convinced that having someone from the region at the table would have at least forced the regents to take a close look at the mounting pressures YSU and other comparable institutions of higher learning are facing today.
Shortly after becoming president of YSU in July 2000, Dr. David Sweet met with editors and writers of The Vindicator to outline his priorities, and high on the list was getting a Mahoning Valley resident appointed by Gov. Bob Taft to the board of regents. Sweet sought the support of business, community and political leaders, and when prominent Valley businessman Bruce R. Beeghly's term on the YSU board of trustees ended last year, he became the leading candidate.
To his credit, the governor recognized the importance of this issue to the region and listened carefully to the arguments presented by Sweet and others.
On Friday, Taft announced that he had appointed Beeghly to a nine-year term on the board. It is fair to point out that once again the governor has responded positively to this area. Last month's announcement by General Motors Corp. that it will build the next generation of its compact cars at the Lordstown assembly complex would not have occurred had Taft not continued the effort begun by his predecessor, George V. Voinovich, to put together an economic incentive package for GM that far surpassed those from other states.
No one should doubt that GM would have walked away from the Valley had the state not come through.
By appointing Beeghly to the board of regents, the governor has recognized that YSU needs an advocate at the state level.
To his credit, Beeghly was careful in his interview with The Vindicator not to leave the impression that his service as a regent will be confined to lobbying for YSU. He does have a responsibility to the entire higher education community.
But we are confident that the lessons he learned while serving as a YSU trustee will not be forgotten. Indeed, when he was trustee chairman in 1999 and 2000, Beeghly strongly advocated a change in the formula used by the regents to distribute state dollars to Ohio's public colleges and universities.
He shares our feeling that open admission, urban universities like YSU must have a funding formula all their own that addresses such things as the growing need for remediation courses for incoming freshmen. In addition, the emphasis on undergraduate education, which the board of regents in the past has argued should be YSU's focus, puts the university at a distinct disadvantage under the current formula, which benefits those institutions that offer an array of graduate and postgraduate courses.
Beeghly's presence on the board is timely and necessary. Gov. Taft has earned the Mahoning Valley's gratitude.
The last area resident to serve as a regent was Youngstown Atty. Paul Dutton, who was appointed by former Gov. Richard F. Celeste in 1987.