Future of Early College in doubt

City school leaders are searching for a new partner to continue the program.

By Harold Gwin

YOUNGSTOWN — The Youngstown State University Board of Trustees has voted to sever its ties with the Youngstown Early College program.

The university will cease its participation in that partnership with the Youngstown City School District as of June 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

The board, meeting in full as its Academic and Student Affairs Committee Thursday, cited finances as the reason for its decision.

The program allows selected Youngstown city school students in grades nine through 12 with demonstrated academic potential to attend classes on the YSU campus, earning college credit while completing their high school education. The school has 250 students this year.

The state had been picking up the annual $600,000 in YSU tuition fees charged to those students until this year, when Ohio’s own financial crunch resulted in early college support being eliminated in the state biennial budget.

That left YSU and the city schools scrambling to find money to keep the program running this year. The partnership required YSU to pick up 49 percent of the cost with the school district covering 51 percent. The school district was already covering the cost of staff and materials while YSU provided the space.

YSU tapped some unused scholarship reserves to pay its share of the tuition cost this year while the city schools found some unused grant funds to pick up its share.

The board of trustees appeared unhappy that some more acceptable, long-term financial arrangements haven’t been reached, and most board members said they felt the university needed to concentrate its money and attention on programs for its regular student body.

Wendy Webb, superintendent of the city schools, attended the meeting, and, though clearly disappointed by the vote, said it wasn’t totally unexpected.

The school district and YSU have been talking to the newly formed Eastern Gateway Community College about taking over YSU’s end of the partnership and those talks will continue, Webb said.

David C. Sweet, YSU president, argued on behalf of continuing the YSU-city school arrangement, saying that Eastern Gateway has indicated it is interested but isn’t at the point where it can take on that level of responsibility.

“We aren’t giving up,” Webb said.

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