For the second consecutive year, enrollment at Youngstown State University has increased, so you may wonder why President David Sweet has hired a consultant to develop a plan to keep this trend going. Here's the answer: 14,500.
That's the number of students YSU hopes to have by 2004. To understand just how big a challenge it will be, consider this: The fall semester began two weeks ago with 12,658 students. In other words, 1,842 more students will have to enroll in the next two years in order for YSU to meet the 14,500 goal.
In that context, spending $133,881 certainly makes sense. Stamats Communications Inc. of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has a good track record and is familiar with higher education in Ohio. The company developed enrollment and marketing plans for Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland and Wright State University in Dayton. In all, it has worked with more than 600 institutions of higher learning around the country.
The company is planning an aggressive campaign for YSU, which parallels what Dr. Sweet has done since he came to the Mahoning Valley two years ago.
In August 2001, during his state of the university address to administrators, faculty and staff, the president offered the following observation: "With the many choices students have today for obtaining a higher education, we cannot sit back and hope they show up at YSU's door." He also talked about the need for the university to become "student centered" and to provide "good customer service."
That has been his mantra -- and this fall's 3.4 percent increase in enrollment from a year ago shows that the message is getting through. To be sure, in times of economic turmoil, which the United States is now experiencing, people who can't find jobs or are in dead-end positions tend to consider higher education as an option.
But there is no argument that since Sweet has been at the helm, the enrollment trend has been encouraging.
Administration officials, led by Dr. Cyndy Anderson, vice president for financial affairs, says that Stamats Communications will spend the next six months talking to hundreds of faculty, staff, high school guidance counselors, alumni and current and prospective students.
In addition, the consultants will examine services ranging from academic advising and campus housing to student retention and university marketing. Armed with all that information, Stamats will come up with recommendations on how YSU can meet its enrollment goal.
"We don't intend this to just be another consultant report," Anderson says.
It had better not be. After all, the university will need all the help it can get to reach the 14,500 mark -- by 2004.