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YSU pursuing new strategies to deal with higher ed reality

Published: Sun, July 15, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

Youngstown State University’s enrollment decline is expected to continue this fall, thus forcing President Cynthia Anderson and the board of trustees to face a bitter truth: The days when the number of students defined the strength of the university are gone.

Instead, YSU, like other pubic institutions of higher learning in Ohio, must come up with a new way of conducting the business of education. State funding, which at one time amounted to 75 percent of the university’s operating budget, is down to 18-20 percent. That, coupled with the drop in enrollment, a $47 million institutional debt and the fixed costs, means YSU must find other sources of revenue.

Dr. Anderson, who met with The Vindicator’s editorial board recently, said she hopes the fall semester’s enrollment does not take a major hit, but even if the numbers aren’t disastrous, YSU can no longer depend on tuition and state subsidies. The university has hired an individual to explore other sources of revenue. The financial hurdles will not be overcome immediately, and it could be two to three years before the problem is remedied, Anderson said.

The president defended the 3.5 percent increase in student tuition for this fall’s semester— it will be the fourth hike in a row — and offered no apologies for granting pay raises to the faculty and staff .

“We’re making hard decisions now,” she said, noting that all the unions are paying a higher percentage of the health care premiums, have taken pay freezes, and the pay for summer-school faculty has been cut.

Nonetheless, the enrollment decline, along with the expansion of the Eastern Gateway Community College in the Mahoning Valley, are the challenges confronting YSU.

Eastern Gateway, which grew out of Jefferson Community College, recently announced that it is moving into the Plaza Building in downtown Youngstown, while maintaining its other locations in the Valley. The two-year institution also announced that graduating high school students in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties can attend free if they have a minimum 2.5 grade-point average.

At YSU, full-time students from Ohio will pay $3,856 a semester beginning this fall.

The tuition increase will affect enrollment, which has been dropping since the fall 2010 semester when there were 15,194 students. Last fall, YSU had 14,541 students enrolled. This summer, there are 415 fewer students on campus than a year ago.

‘Right size’

To her credit, Anderson acknowledges that YSU must “right size” in terms of its student population and the workforce. There are 100 positions vacant that won’t all be filled.

As for the students, the days of the open admissions institution accepting anyone with a high school diploma are gone. A change in the admission policy will place on conditional status students with a grade-point average below 2.0 or a composite ACT below 17 or reading and math SAT composite below 620.

The future of higher education in Ohio is a question mark, given changing dynamics in Columbus under a Republican governor and a Republican Legislature. That is why institutions like YSU must prepare for the worst.


1NoBS(2072 comments)posted 2 years, 7 months ago

Once Kasich stops giving even one dollar to the state-funded universities, can they still call themselves Youngstown STATE, Cleveland STATE, Wright STATE, and so on?

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2Spiderlegs(146 comments)posted 2 years, 7 months ago

Some of these comments in this editorial make sense and some do not.

(1) Will enrollment at YSU go down? Probably, but there has been a great run at YSU until this past year. Vindy should read YSU's strategic plan. It is about quality of the programs, not numbers. Higher equality means some of the lower tier students that YSU has accepted in the past won't be as welcome. The university appears to be making the necessary adjustments, and in the long term this will only boost the reputation of the school.

(2) Why are we thinking that EGTC is in the same league as YSU? EGTC is for low end students--ones who have been going to YSU in the past and probably should not have been. Decent students, however, might be in for a surprise if they go to EGTC: My experience has been that students who transfer from community colleges to four-year schools are caught off guard because their community college education didn't prepare them well. It might take a while for Youngstown folk to figure this out, but we will learn.

(3) Not enough credit is given to YSU by Vindy for the expansion of its graduate programs. YSU in particular seems aligned with shifts in nursing, where four-year and even master's degrees are becoming more important.

(4) The criticism of YSU is never placed in a comparative context. What is tuition at other state universities in Ohio? Look at the numbers, and what is happening at YSU doesn't look so bad.

(5) And, yes, if it weren't for YSU, things would be a lot worse in Youngstown.

I don't think we should be blind to the fact that YSU will need to make changes, but they aren't all bad. Vindy has been too one sided on these issues. We're all in this together, and the future of Youngstown and YSU are unquestionably intertwined.

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3chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 2 years, 7 months ago

"Higher equality means some of the lower tier students that YSU has accepted in the past won't be as welcome.'

What does this mumo-jumbo mean? Is YSU pulling its welcome mat to lower income minorities at its new business school?

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4northsideperson(365 comments)posted 2 years, 7 months ago

Lower academic performance, not lower income.

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5Spiderlegs(146 comments)posted 2 years, 7 months ago

@chuck_carney: Typo, I goofed. Should be "higher quality."

To elaborate: YSU is under some state pressure to raise retention and graduation rates, and this will probably affect its funding at point in the near future. The feds are also starting to examine outcomes, though anything coming from this is down the road. To its credit, YSU is tightening some of its policies before the crisis comes, but my guess is that this won't be enough. YSU people to whom I speak seem quite divided about raising standards given the relationship of university and city, but the school probably has no choice in the long run. The best thing for YSU might actually be an improvement in Youngstown schools, which would increase the pool of well prepared students, but isn't something YSU has control over. How YSU has managed to survive with the demise of Youngstown and Youngstown schools is somewhat amazing.

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6Tigerlily(500 comments)posted 2 years, 7 months ago

Anderson said in this article that the problem won't be remedied for 2 to 3 years.

That is just around the time when Kasich will be up for re-election. When the governor who ends up replacing him is in office, that is when YSU's and the other Ohio state universities' problems will be remedied.

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7taxpayer1001(274 comments)posted 2 years, 7 months ago

One thing that really bothers me:
"The university has hired an individual to explore other sources of revenue. The financial hurdles will not be overcome immediately, and it could be two to three years before the problem is remedied, Anderson said."
Correct me if I am taking this wrong, but every time any part of the goverment or gov't funded has a problem financially, they hire someone to figure out why. Do we not pay the top people and all the way down to take care of problems? I am sure the people they hire to "figure it out" make a ton of money on the job. Something I've thought about in the past and just wondering if I am wrong in thinking this way.

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