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Decline in spring enrollment puts pressure on YSU’s chief



Published: Sat, February 8, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

Given that Youngstown State University’s enrollment has dropped from 15,194 in the fall of 2010 to 12,823 this spring semester, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the open access, urban institution has a problem — if student numbers matter.

Yet, Gary Swegan, YSU’s new associate vice president for enrollment planning, doesn’t seem overly concerned. We will concede that what occurs in higher education rarely reflects the nonacademic world, but spinning a loss into a gain takes some talent.

Here’s how Swegan explained the drop in enrollment of 1 percent from the spring 2013 semester to this semester:

“To start out, we were down 3.13 percent in the fall, and spring typically follows fall very closely, so we might have anticipated another 3 percent drop. That didn’t happen. We’re down just 1.1 percent. In fact, we enrolled a slightly larger group than we planned for in our budget for this semester. We hit our target, plus a little more.”

YSU is also finding comfort in the fact that the graduate student population grew this semester.

So, what are the stakeholders to make of the continuing decline in enrollment?

We would suggest, based on our conversations with the chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, John Carey, and Dr. Gordon Gee, higher education consultant to Gov. John Kasich, that Youngstown State cannot afford to keep losing students.

Ohio’s 13 public universities and colleges are being told that they not only have to become more self-sufficient because state funding for higher education is not going to increase in any significant way, but they also will have to make the case for their existence.

Gee and Carey are expected to release a report this summer on the state’s universities and colleges that will deal with a variety of issues, including enrollment.

Republican Gov. Kasich, like his predecessor, Democrat Ted Strickland, has made increasing the number of Ohioans with college degrees a priority.

Open access institutions such as Youngstown State will be called upon to increase their efforts in attracting students who are first in their families to seek higher education.

Recruitment program

That’s why the enrollment decline this spring matters. It suggests that the university has yet to come up with an effective recruitment program to put the brakes on the downward spiral and begin the rebuilding process.

Given that YSU’s chief enrollment officer, Swegan, has been on the job since November, it is unfair to hold him responsible.

However, it will be fair to judge the vice president’s performance based on this fall semester’s enrollment. If there’s an increase, Swegan will get the credit. But if the numbers continue to decrease, he will be blamed.

In contrast to challenges confronting YSU, Eastern Gateway Community College is celebrating a 10 percent enrollment growth this semester — 2,832 compared with 2,573 last spring.

It is noteworthy that Eastern Gateway began operating in the Mahoning Valley in fall 2009.


Comments

1Millerh113(119 comments)posted 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Isn't it obvious? Eastern Gateway is siphoning off YSU's students and will continue to do so.

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2Knightcap(693 comments)posted 6 months, 3 weeks ago

How about lowering tuition, fees, parking and books. Students and parents get shocked when you have to come up with $500 to buy a few books. Then if you want to sell them back you only get 10 bucks. Talk about a new car depreciating when it leaves the showroom floor. Can't compare to a book when it leaves the shelf.

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3kurtw(846 comments)posted 6 months, 2 weeks ago

@ eivo "eject non-students" How the hell do you do that? I'm not a student at YSU but I'm on Campus grounds a lot for cultural and other reasons- they have a great Library and I cross over to the Butler and then I cross over to the Inner Circle for a beer (or two). So what are you saying, put a fence around the campus with checkpoints like a prison?

No, the best way to deter campus crime is to allow (and encourage) students to carry weapons (a concealed carry permit). The minute the word got out to the Thug Community that students were not "easy marks" crime would drop dramatically. Guaranteed.

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4kurtw(846 comments)posted 6 months, 2 weeks ago

The cost of books is a big concern- I'm convinced there's collusion between Universities and Text Book Publishers to keep book prices high, Talk about "Crony Capitalism"!

Suggest removal:

5kurtw(846 comments)posted 6 months, 2 weeks ago

Of course you're right- Who wants to be in a place were you feel you have to go around with a gun in your pocket to protect yourself and no parent would send their child into a place like that if they had other choices open to them- unfortunately, there's no practical way to insulate YSU from it's surroundings.

Good Luck to you.

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