YSU mulls lowering tuition for early college

By Harold Gwin

The charge for tuition could be reduced from $290 to just $90 per credit hour.

YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown State University may be willing to lower the tuition charge for high school students enrolled in the Youngstown Early College program in an effort to keep the program on campus.

YEC is a six-year-old joint Youngstown City School District and YSU program that allows selected average students with demonstrated academic potential earn college credit while completing their high school education on campus. It has 250 students this year.

YSU has been charging students the same $290 per-credit-hour tuition that it assesses its traditional students, with the city school district agreeing to pick up 51 percent of that tab while the university covers 49 percent.

However, neither body had to pay any of the tuition cost until this year because the state has been providing grant funds to cover it.

That state aid came to an abrupt halt last fall when all early-college funding was cut from the state biennial budget, leaving YSU and the city school district scrambling to find money to cover this year’s $685,000 tuition bill.

YSU tapped some unused scholarship- reserve funds to cover its $336,000 share, and the school district made use of some unused grant funds to cover its $349,000 share.

Neither body made any commitment to fund the program for the 2010-11 school year, but both have been looking for outside funding to help cover the tuition cost.

Ikram Khawaja, YSU provost and vice president for academic affairs, presented the YSU Board of Trustees with a plan last week to cut that cost by nearly 75 percent by reducing the tuition charge from $290 per credit hour to just $90 per credit hour.

He justified the reduction by pointing out the YEC students enroll in less-costly, lower-division courses and consume YSU services at a much lower level than traditional YSU students. Some students coming out of YEC have enough credit to be awarded associate degrees, but none are taking higher-level courses that are more costly to provide, Khawaja said.

The move would reduce YSU’s cost to $104,000, based on current enrollment numbers, while the school district’s share would be $109,000, he said.

All parties are committed to seeking grants to reduce this obligation even further, Khawaja said.

He pointed out that YSU still will be receiving a State Share of Instruction subsidy because of the YEC students enrolled in university classes.

That would amount to $337,000 annually, based on current enrollment, which would more than offset YSU’s tuition responsibility, he said.

The city school district would continue to provide the staff and operating expenses for the high school programs at YEC, a cost of $405,000, Khawaja said.

“I’m very excited about [the trustees’] willingness to look at this,” said Wendy Webb, Youngstown schools superintendent.

The city school board wants to keep this program moving forward, she said.

YEC is the only city school rated as academically excellent by the state and is considered a “best practice” school by the district.

It was awarded a bronze ranking in the US News and World Report 2009 list of the nation’s best high schools based on how well it educates all students, including minority and disadvantaged students, and how well students are prepared for college.

The school district launched a Rayen Early College Middle School program last fall to prepare students for admission to YEC.

There could be some other changes coming for YEC, Khawaja said.

The program occupies some “prime academic space” in Fedor Hall but could be moved to Williamson Hall across campus, which will become vacant when the new Williamson College of Business Administration building opens this fall, he said.

There are also discussions to bring Eastern Gateway Community College, which began operations last fall, into the program as a partner, Khawaja said.

Discussions with Laura Meeks, EGCC president, indicate that the community college is willing to collaborate with the project, especially in the area of developmental education, he said.

Webb said she is excited that EGCC is interested in helping sustain the YEC program.

An EGCC spokeswoman confirmed that such discussions are occurring but said no details are in place yet.


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