State cuts, bonuses eat up new YSU revenue

By Harold Gwin

This fall’s increase in tuition will help cover uncertainties in state funding next year.

YOUNGSTOWN — Nearly two-thirds of the extra revenue Youngstown State University will get from this fall’s jump in enrollment will be eaten up by a shortfall in state financial assistance.

Most of the rest will go to an employee-incentive enrollment bonus program.

A fall semester enrollment of 14,682, up nearly 1,000 from last fall, reflected a larger-than-anticipated growth for the university that translated into $5,275,000 in revenue above what was shown in the $150 million 2009-10 budget.

However, YSU has learned that the state share of instruction, the subsidy Ohio gives its public universities, will fall $3,264,000 short of its projected $50 million mark this year. That includes a $1.2 million cut the university learned about in July plus nearly $2.1 million in cuts (actually only “deferred” by the state until fiscal 2010-11) learned about later.

Scott Schulick, board chairman, said trustees knew the final word on state financial assistance wasn’t in place when they had to adopt the 2009-10 budget in June.

“We didn’t know where we would end up,” he said, although there were projections that enrollment would grow and perhaps cover any shortfall.

Schulick said several trustees questioned the ramifications that a cut in state assistance might have and were told that, should enrollment not rise, cuts would have to be made.

But enrollment did jump and provided sufficient revenue to cover the state shortfall as well as $1.8 million in enrollment-incentive bonuses for about 400 members of the university’s Association of Classified Employees union.

Each member of that union, which represents work groups such as administrative assistants and maintenance employees, will get a check for $4,500 on or about Dec. 15.

There have been rumors circulating on campus that the university wouldn’t make good on the bonuses, but Schulick said that’s not true.

“It’s part of the contract,” he said.

“It was never a good deal,” he said, but it was part of the give-and-take of contract negotiations. The ACE union, for example, gave up its litigation over a personal- day issue, which could have cost the university $2 million, he said.

The ACE employees also got an enrollment incentive bonus of $1,125 each last year for a total of $440,000.

This isn’t the first time the union has had an enrollment bonus in its contract.

One existed for several years before the 2005 ACE strike, and employees saw more modest bonuses between $200 and $600 when enrollment growth was slower. The incentive was dropped in the three-year contract following the strike but came back in the three-year pact that took effect in 2008.

Because of higher enrollment, the university is also incurring a $220,000 cost for hiring part-time instructors to handle additional classes.

That, coupled with the state shortfall and employee bonus, brings the expenses above what was budgeted to $5,284,000, or $9,000 more than the added enrollment will generate.

However, the trustees reopened this year’s budget in mid-July after learning of the initial $1.2 million state shortfall and enacted a 3.5 percent undergraduate tuition increase, generating an additional $2.6 million in revenue.

That money will be allocated to several areas, including YSU’s four Centers of Excellence and the proposed University College (focusing on student retention and assistance to those who have not chosen a major). Most of it will go into a reserve account to help with the 2010-11 budget.

The university expects to get that $2.1 million state deferral from this year for 2010-11, but the state has already indicated that its 2010-11 allocation to YSU will be cut by an additional $4.9 million.

That potential drop fueled the move to raise tuition now.

“There is a lot of uncertainty (regarding state funding),” said Neal McNally, YSU director of budget planning and resource analysis.

The 2009-10 budget included a $2 million reserve, and projections show that about $1.7 million of that can be carried over into fiscal 2010-11 to help fund that budget, McNally said.

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