By Denise Dick
A group of Youngstown State University Cochran Scholars Program alumni worry changes considered for the scholarship awards will cause more harm than good.
The Leslie Cochran Scholars Program provides full tuition and room and board to 40 incoming freshmen annually based on their academic stature. It attracts students from the Mahoning Valley and across the country.
Alumni say that university trustees and the YSU Foundation are considering changes to the program.
“The proposals aim to effectively end the ‘full ride’ scholarship program [covers tuition, room and board and books], and replace it with ‘full tuition’ scholarship of lower value given to more students,” according to information prepared by the alumni group.
Joe Smith, a member of the Scholars Class of 1995, the third class of Scholars, said alumni learned about proposed changes through the grapevine and have three main concerns. Smith’s was the first Scholars Class to move into Cafaro House.
The first concern is with the analysis, which, he said, doesn’t seem to be very well thought out.
The idea behind it, the alumni say, is that more scholarships will equal more students. But Smith, a Hubbard native who lives in New York City and works in the advertising industry, said that the students replacing those who would have been University Scholars may be students from the area who would choose to attend YSU regardless.
Alumni just want to make sure that if changes are needed, whatever changes are implemented make sense, he said.
Ron Cole, a university spokesman, said the university is looking at the Scholars Program and exploring all options, but no decisions have been made.
Paul McFadden, president of the YSU Foundation, which funds the Scholars program, said a committee has been established to look “globally” at all scholarship allocations, but no recommendation has been made to the foundation.
The alumni, who compiled a brochure presenting their case, say the goal of the proposals is to increase YSU’s overall enrollment, thereby securing additional state/federal funding per student.
Smith said another concern is the process.
Scholars weren’t informed that changes were being considered.
“It’s the process that has upset many people,” he said.
The third concern is the impact on the program itself and on future donations, Smith said.
Living on campus allowed him and other Scholars to feel connected to YSU and Youngstown and feel like a part of the community, he said.
“That’s a big thing to me,” Smith said. “I want to make sure they’re not giving up on that.”
The alumni also contend that donations from Scholars alumni will drop. The oldest Scholars are turning 40, and because of family and other financial obligations, haven’t reached their full giving potential.
“There is great opportunity for development from this base of students who feel connected and want to pay back what they received,” they said.