Sweet wants a conditional admissions policy for underprepared students.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Forty-three percent of Youngstown State University's student body started at YSU without having completed a core group of high school courses considered essential to college success.
As a state commission is challenging universities to help increase statewide college enrollment by 30 percent, YSU President David C. Sweet said he wants to work more with local school districts to increase that percentage.
"What we're confronting is a need to more effectively communicate ... what the expectations are that colleges have for entering students," Sweet said.
"I think we should work with the school districts. We're trying to see what we as a university can do with school districts."
YSU, an open-access institution, does not require entering students to have a minimum high school grade point average or college entrance exam score.
However, Sweet said he advocates the creation of a "conditional admissions" process. Such a process would be applied to students with low GPAs or test scores or who have not completed the college core.
Those students would be limited to the courses they could take during initial terms at YSU and would be required to participate in academic counseling and other services at the university's Center for Student Progress.
Sweet said the percentage of YSU students entering without adequate preparation is higher than any other Ohio open-access institution comparable to YSU.
At the University of Akron, 40 percent of students enter without the college core; at Cleveland State University, the percentage is 39; at University of Toledo, it is 34; and at Wright State University, it's 30, he said.
But YSU leads the pack in other factors as well.
At 58 percent, YSU has the highest percentage of first-generation college students, or students whose parents did not go to college. Also at 58 percent, it has the highest percentage of students with family incomes below $50,000.
Sweet said working with districts to provide the right foundation will help "bridge up" these students. One example is a partnership YSU enters this fall with Youngstown city schools through which at-risk students will attend an Early College High School on the YSU campus and earn both high school and college credit.
"If we don't educate our population, I think the evidence is irrefutable that the jobs won't be here," Sweet said. "What investment can the Valley make so jobs will be here? I think the No. 1 investment is education."
Such steps will help make progress toward meeting the goal of a 30 percent college enrollment increase, set by the Governor's Commission on Higher Education and the Economy.
In Mahoning County, 17.5 percent of adults have at least a bachelor's degree; in Trumbull, 14.5 percent have a bachelor's degree; and in Columbiana, 10.8 percent have a bachelor's degree. That compares with a statewide percentage of 21.1 and a U.S. percentage of 24.4.
According to a report released by the commission last month, such an increase would mean increasing college enrollment in Mahoning County by 4,458, in Trumbull County by 2,974, and in Columbiana County by 1,232, YSU officials said.
In total, the increase -- 8,664 -- represents roughly two-thirds the current enrollment at YSU.
Besides collaborating with school districts, Sweet said improving college enrollment in the tri-county area will mean offering some type of community college education, possibly using YSU's Metro College or online education delivery formats.
Further, Sweet said YSU is experimenting with collaborations with Cuyahoga Community College and Jefferson Community College, where students can complete two years of college work before transferring to YSU.
Sweet said such collaboration possibilities also could be explored with area career and technical centers.