By Denise Dick
These are tough economic times for Ohio’s institutions of higher learning, but not everyone is feeling the pain.
Members of the Association of Classified Employees at Youngstown State University will each receive a $2,625 bonus within the next couple of weeks. There are about 400 ACE employees. That totals about $1,065,000.
Ron Cole, YSU spokesman, said that an enrollment bonus for the union was negotiated in the contract, beginning in fiscal year 2009.
“They are to receive a $375 bonus per year for every half-percent enrollment increase,” Cole said. “This year, the enrollment increase is 3.5 percent, so every [ACE] employee will receive $2,625.”
The bonus will be paid in one lump sum to each employee this month, he said.
ACE, which includes work groups such as administrative assistants and maintenance employees, is the only YSU union with an enrollment bonus in its contract.
About 15,194 students were enrolled at YSU fall semester. That’s 512 students more than the 2009 fall semester — a 3.5 percent increase.
It is the highest enrollment since 1990, when the number of students on campus was 15,454. Since 2000, YSU’s enrollment has climbed by 3,407 students or 29 percent.
Brian Brennan, ACE president, said the university’s tight financial times have prompted some members to rethink the bonuses.
“Some people are just returning it to the university, some are declining it outright,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t have the numbers of people who fall into those categories until the bonuses are issued next week.
The enrollment bonus was part of a complicated contract negotiated by the two sides, he said. As part of it, the union agreed to drop litigation regarding two additional personal days.
“The enrollment bonus was brought up by the university, not ACE,” Brennan said.
Scott Schulick, YSU trustees chairman, said that at the time, it was estimated that if ACE won the litigation pertaining to additional personal days, it would have cost YSU millions. In exchange for the enrollment bonus, the union dropped that grievance.
It was a trade-off, he said.
“Anyone can be critical now,” Schulick said. “In 2008, everyone agreed to it. It’s like crying over spilled milk. It’s done, it’s part of the contract.”
The enrollment bonus didn’t include a cap, allowing for higher amounts. But no one on either side foresaw the nation’s economic crisis and the resulting spike in enrollment at the time the contract was ratified, he said.
“We can all look back in hindsight and say that wasn’t right thing to do, but given the facts and issues that were pending at that time in the summer of 2008, it was the best alternative,” Schulick said.
The current contract expires next year.
“Do I expect us to see an enrollment incentive going forward? Probably not,” he said.
This year’s enrollment bonus is less than that of last year.
In December 2009, each member received a check for about $4,500. In 2008, it was about $1,125 each, according to Vindicator files.
The ACE enrollment bonus isn’t new to the current 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.
The latest bonus comes about a month after university divisions were directed to cut their budgets by about 8.5 percent to deal with this year’s reduction in state funding and a larger cut expected next year.
YSU is dealing with a $3 million reduction in state subsidies for the remainder of this current fiscal year. An additional reduction of at least $7 million in state funding is expected in the next fiscal year because of the loss of federal stimulus dollars.