By Denise Dick
If you were hoping for a job at Youngstown State University, you’re going to be waiting for a while.
“There’s a hiring freeze, effective immediately,” said Ron Cole, YSU spokesman.
The freeze for nonfaculty positions is because of the university’s financial situation including the loss of $7 million in state funds and a deficit this year.
“It includes all [non-faculty] positions that are supported by the general fund that are now vacant” including vacancies as a result of the Early Retirement Incentive Program, Cole said.
It may become necessary to fill certain critical positions or positions crucial to the university’s strategic plan.
“The president’s executive Cabinet and the president will be reviewing those to consider if they will be exceptions,” the spokesman said. “But I’m told that exceptions will be few in number and very rare.”
Sherry Linkon, a spokeswoman for the union representing YSU’s faculty, declined to comment on the hiring freeze.
Also Wednesday, President Cynthia E. Anderson sent a memo to the campus with YSU’s financial troubles explained by Gene Grilli, vice president for finance and administration.
“In general, Ohio’s public universities are funded through two major sources — state funds and tuition revenue,” Grilli wrote. “In Ohio, state funding in support of public higher education has been on a gradual downward slope for the past decade.
“Ten years ago, money from the state made up about half of total revenues at YSU; today, it accounts for about one-quarter.”
The drop has created what Grilli called a fundamental shift in how Ohio’s public universities are funded.
“When state funding drops, the only other revenue source — tuition — goes up,” Grilli wrote. “The result is that students bear a greater burden. In addition, when the state places restrictions on how much tuition can be raised, it further hinders the ability of universities to offset reductions in state funding.”
The state has a 3.5-percent cap on tuition increases.
For the past six years, YSU enrollment had increased, resulting in increased tuition revenue that helped offset the loss in state funding.
The university had projected a 1 percent enrollment increase this year, but fall enrollment dropped 4.5 percent to 14,540.
YSU recorded a 3.5 percent enrollment increase between fall 2009 and fall 2010.
“As a result, overall tuition revenue is expected to be at least $5 million less than projected,” the vice president said in the memo. “Add that to the $1.7 million deficit already included in the budget, and the shortfall totals nearly $7 million.”
While the future appears bleak, all Ohio universities are struggling with the same issues as YSU, he said.
“It is, in some ways, the perfect storm – a badly ailing national, state and local economy combined with monumental cuts in state funding combined with a significant reversal in enrollment trends,” Grilli wrote. “The challenges are real. Substantial austerity measures across the entire scope of the university will be needed to address the situation.”
The hiring freeze occurs as the university is embroiled in contract talks with its two largest unions.
The previous contracts for both the faculty union and the Association of Classified Employees expired last month. Talks on Wednesday focused on health care costs without a resolution on the matter. No additional meetings are scheduled with the faculty union at this point, Linkon said.