YSU starts new year in state of flux

As he settles into the office of president of Youngstown State University in Tod Hall, Dr. Randy Dunn may find truth in these words of wisdom: “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.”

Dunn wished to succeed Dr. Cynthia Anderson as head of the urban, open-admission public university, and his wish came true when the board of trustees offered him a three-year contract, starting July 15. He’s being paid $375,000 and will receive increases in the second and third years. Prior to coming to Youngstown State, Dunn was president of Murray State University in Kentucky for almost seven years. He previously was superintendent of education for the state of Illinois.

Although he has been on campus for about a month, next week’s start of the 2013-14 academic year promises to be his baptism by fire.

Bitter truth

For starters, the president will have to chart a course that takes into consideration this bitter truth: The decline in enrollment that began in the fall of 2011 is continuing and shows no sign of ending. That means the university’s operating budget will keep shrinking for the foreseeable future.

The enrollment trend line tells the story: 15,194 students in the fall of 2010; 14,541 in 2011; 13,813 in the fall of 2012; 12,966 in the spring 2013 semester.

This fall, there could be more than 500 fewer students on campus compared with a year ago. That’s a huge chunk of money lost.

Earlier this year, the board of trustees voted to raise tuition by 2.43 percent for Ohio residents, 2.74 percent for nonresident undergraduate students who live in the region, and 1.69 percent for nonresident undergrads.

Resident graduate students are shelling out 3 percent more, while nonresidents who live in the region are paying 3.23 percent more.

But if the trustees think they can continue picking students’ pockets to make up for the loss of state funding and tuition income due to the enrollment decline, they have another thing coming.

Word out of Columbus is that tuition increases have been capped at 2 percent.

That certainly isn’t good news for YSU, which will be losing even more money from the state as a result of the new funding formula for Ohio’s public universities and colleges.

Indeed, the news gets worse. Before the state’s biennium budget was passed by Republicans in the General Assembly and signed into law by Republican Gov. John Kasich, university officials were anticipating a bump in state funding in the second year of the two-year budget.

Now, there are rumblings that YSU could get less money than it would have under the old funding formula.

That’s some of what Dr. Dunn faces as he begins his presidency.

But before he can sit back and take stock of the university’s dwindling fortunes, he will have to deal with another issue that has the potential of causing great upheaval on campus.


Contract negotiations with the faculty union will be tense given that the current pact was not employee friendly. The three-year labor agreement contained no pay raises for 2011-12 and 2012-13, and a 2 percent raise for 2013-14.

Oldtimers contend it was the first time in at least 40 years that faculty did not receive an increase in the first year of a contract.

It is also noteworthy that it was Dr. Anderson, named president because of her long association with YSU as a member of the faculty and staff, who forced the unions to accept pay freezes for the first two years.

She quickly became persona non grata among many faculty members.

The new president has inherited this ill will toward the university. He won’t have the luxury of a honeymoon with union leaders.

That may be a blessing because he is going to have to deliver the bad news early: There’s no money for a pay raise in the first year of the contract, and the second and third years will be lean.

Dunn was involved in contract negotiations during his tenure as superintendent of education in Illinois. Perhaps he learned a thing or two that could be applied to the talks with the faculty union.

The board of trustees will be hard pressed to agree to any pay raises in light of the fact that tuition has been increased five years in a row.

President Dunn will soon be put to the test.

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