At YSU, numbers matter

When Dr. Cynthia Anderson takes over as president of Youngstown State University on July 1, her salary will skyrocket from $142,256 to $350,000. In the second year of her three-year contract, Anderson, currently vice president for student affairs at YSU, will earn $375,000; in the third year, $400,000.

By the way, those figures do not include the value of a vehicle she’ll get from the university, professional dues, travel, entertainment and relocation expenses.

YSU is renovating the Pollock House on Wick Avenue to become the president’s residence.

By contrast, YSU’s current president, Dr. David Sweet, is pulling in $308,616 this fiscal year. That includes a housing allowance of $60,180 and an automobile allowance of $9,078.

In addition, the university pays $3,000 for Sweet, who is retiring on June 30, to be enrolled in the Cleveland Clinic Executive Health Program; $5,380 for annual membership in the Youngstown Country Club; $1,500 for annual membership in the Youngstown Club; $5,225 for Regional Chamber membership. And, YSU pays $300 a month for his home Internet connection and service.

Great work if you can get it.

The challenge

But here are some other numbers that define the university and shed light on what the next president must deal with, especially considering Anderson’s current job:

The six-year graduation rate for a bachelor’s degree (getting a degree in four years is no longer the norm) is 36.7 percent. The statewide average is 55.3 percent.

Even more telling, the six-year graduation rate for black students at YSU is 17.6 percent.

If there’s any solace to be found in those statistics, YSU fares better than the University of Akron, Cleveland State University, Central State University and Shawnee State University in the overall baccalaureate graduation rate.

With regard to black students graduating, Youngstown State University is better than Shawnee, Cleveland State and Akron.

But how does any of this relate to Sweet or Anderson? Consider: the formula being applied for state funding for higher education by the Ohio Board of Regents is largely based on two factors, retention of students, and graduation.

The higher the retention and graduation rates, the greater the amount of money from Columbus.

In addition to which, Gov. Ted Strickland and Chancellor of Higher Education Eric Fingerhut have made graduation a cornerstone of their vision for higher education in Ohio.

Earlier this month, Strickland announced that the state intends to take “the bold action needed” to increase college completion rates.

A news release from the Ohio Board of Regents announcing Ohio’s joining the Complete College America initiative, contained this paragraph:

“Unchanged for decades, the rate at which Americans complete post-secondary degrees falls woefully short of the country’s needs and potential. Ohio currently ranks 35th in the nation in baccalaureate degree attainment for individuals ages 25-64 years old. ... Ohio has already recognized that access to affordable, high-quality education is the way to its economic future.”

There are 16 states in the Complete College Alliance of States, including Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

In reviewing the data for graduation and retention rates in Ohio’s public universities, it becomes clear that the average ACT score of incoming students is very much a factor.

The top performing institutions, Miami University and Ohio State University, have an average ACT of over 24; at the bottom, with an average of less than 21, are six institutions, including YSU.

Home grown

Thus, the challenge facing Anderson, who has made much of the fact that she has spent more than three decades at Youngstown State, is home grown, and understands the university community and the community at large.

That connection undoubtedly worked to her benefit during the presidential search by the board of trustees. After all, of the three other finalists, two were university presidents.

Those involved in higher education resent any mention of their salaries and benefits. But given the lucrative compensation packages, taxpayers have a right to ask, “What are we getting for our money?”

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