YOUNGSTOWN Sweet: YSU can set example

YOUNGSTOWN -- A "strong and vibrant" Youngstown State University will become a national model for student-centered, comprehensive, urban universities when it reaches its 100th anniversary in 2008.
Dr. David C. Sweet, the university's president, delivered that prediction in his state of the university address Monday, telling trustees, faculty, staff and students how the Centennial Strategic Plan will help make YSU an institution that transforms students into successful professionals, scholars, citizens and leaders and enriches the vitality of the region.
"We anticipate this milestone with a strong sense of accomplishment, proudly acknowledging 95 years of dedication by faculty and staff who have served generations of students," Sweet said during the address at Beeghly Center.
Financial matters
Sweet said the university community must remain realistic about funding as it works toward 10 ambitious goals or "critical issues" outlined in the strategic plan.
Among them is financial resources. YSU, two years ago, received 55 percent of its funding from the state; this year that amount is down to 40 percent; next year it will fall to 35 percent.
Sweet said YSU's tuition rate has gone up but still remains the lowest among Ohio's comprehensive universities. Along with the increases has come $3 million in university budget cuts this fiscal year and $5.5 million over the past four years.
Sweet, who last week testified before the Ohio House of Representatives' Select Committee on Higher Education, said he plans to work toward a state funding formula that gives more help to open-access, metropolitan universities that focus on undergraduate education.
Besides Ohio, Sweet said, the university continues to seek state funding from Pennsylvania for the nearly 1,000 western Pennsylvania students who attend YSU.
Further, he said, YSU is encouraging more private donations and investments in the university through the restructuring of a development office that works with the YSU Foundation.
Student population
Despite the funding challenges, Sweet said enrollment has continued to grow. Another critical issue, he said, involves enrollment and student retention.
Enrollment last fall climbed by 3.7 percent and increased again this fall by 3.9 percent, marking the first time since 1989 and 1990 that enrollment went up for two consecutive years, Sweet said. A Cleveland-based admissions recruiter has helped increase by 43 percent the number of students from Cuyahoga County.
Sweet said quality programs are the reason students from the area and surrounding regions are drawn to YSU. A goal involving programs, teaching and research has begun with the hiring this fall of 35 new faculty members, the largest group entering since the mid-1990s, Sweet said.
New programs include an associate degree in electric utility technology; master's degree programs in environmental studies and social work; an on-site, business administration master's degree program with First Energy Corporation; and a master's degree in public administration, a collaborative program with Cleveland State University.
In the spring, the university will introduce a certificate program in nonprofit management.
Among the other critical issues are "community engagement" and one involving the university neighborhood.
New programs include a partnership between the College of Engineering and Technology and Parker Hannifin and support of Presidential Academic Centers for Excellence in Research. With a new $3 million state grant, a Mahoning Valley Education and Training Institute will give job seekers skills and link them with employers, Sweet said.
Also in the community-development area, the university has partnered with local school districts, offering pre-college experiences to 15,700 pupils through 48 programs, Sweet said.
The university has also begun working with the city to develop joint urban-planning efforts. Sweet called the "unprecedented" effort one that links the resources of the YSU Center for Urban Studies with city resources to help create the city's Comprehensive Plan for 2010.
In the Smoky Hollow section of the city, YSU has worked with the Northside Citizens' Coalition in the Wick Park neighborhood and also joined forces with Wick Avenue neighbors, including St. John's Church, the Butler Institute, the Arms Museum and the Youngstown Library.
Other matters
In May, YSU and the YSU Foundation broke ground for the $22 million University Courtyard student apartment building on Wick Oval, a 408-bed facility set to open in August.
The building, Sweet said, will provide "the cornerstone of the work of the Wick Neighbors in the revitalization of the Smoky Hollow neighborhood."
Safety in these neighborhoods and on campus, Sweet said, involves the participation of the entire university community, an effort that has gained YSU a safety record that is among the best of Ohio's public universities.
In other critical issues:
U Diversity is growing with a 13.7 percent increase in minority enrollment this fall. There are about 1,600 minority students on campus, the largest in university history, Sweet said.
U Technology has been addressed with a new university Web site and e-mail system, and a committee has been appointed to prepare a comprehensive technology master plan.
U In student services and alumni relations, the university has opened a Sweeney Welcome Center, expanded a Center for Student Progress and plans to build a Student Recreation and Wellness Center.

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