YSU risks student backlash if tuition is raised — again

Before Youngstown State Univer- sity trustees impose a 3.5 percent increase in tuition for the fall semester, we would hope that someone has the good sense to ask this question: Are we reaching the point where we’re pricing ourselves out of our market.

It is not an idle inquiry, given that while tuition increased over the last two academic years, student enrollment decreased for the fall 2011 semester by 4 percent from the fall of 2010. Indeed, there are 415 fewer students attending YSU this summer compared with a year ago. That translates into a loss of revenue.

And it isn’t only tuition that has been on the rise. Various fees are being increased, and it could be more expensive for students to park on campus if trustees approve a $20 hike proposed by the administration.

The situation at YSU stands in sharp contrast to what is taking place at the Eastern Gateway Community College.

“We’ve been doubling our enrollment every semester,” said Dr. Laura Meeks, president of the two-year institution, as she announced that the Plaza Place building on the east end of downtown Youngstown will be the institution’s permanent location in the Mahoning Valley.

Between 2010 and 2011, EGCC realized an 11 percent increase, the largest of Ohio’s community colleges.

EGCC’s first Valley Center opened in 2009 in the former Northside Medical Center on Gypsy Lane. As more students enrolled, additional classes were offered at the Jewish Community Center, but it ran out of space there, too.

This year, the college opened on the fourth floor of Choffin Career and Technical Center.

EGCC will continue to offer classes at Choffin, the career and technical centers in Mahoning, Columbiana and Trumbull counties and its Warren facility.

At YSU, as trustees this week consider the 3.5 percent tuition increase recommended by the finance and facilities committee, we would hope the discussion touches on whether Youngstown State’s enrollment loss is Eastern Gateway’s gain.

Police contract

Trustees will also be presented with the proposed three-year contract with the police union that calls for a pay raise of 2 percent in the second year and at least 2 percent in the final year.

In the midst of being forced to deal with a $1.1 million reduction in state funding — on top of the $7 million cut last year — should pay raises even be on the table?

We are well aware that the contracts entered into last year with the faculty and classified employees unions, which had raises and other sweeteners, set the stage for this year’s talks with the police and the professional staff.

But rather than boosting salaries, we believe that under the current economic circumstances it would make more sense to have a one-year pact with no raises. Also, the university should seek a reopening of the contracts with the faculty and classified employees to eliminate the pay raises that take effect in the third year.

The tuition increases in 2010 and 2011 and the possible increase this fall make it clear that YSU is rolling the dice — with its student population. Caution is advised.

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