YSU starts search for new leader

Move comes as university experiences enrollment drop

YOUNGSTOWN — Some Youngstown State University officials will be busy this summer with the beginning stages of selecting the university’s next president.

“The long-term goal is to have a new president by the second quarter of 2024 to be part of the (fiscal year 2025) budget process,” Charles T. George, vice chairman of the university’s board of trustees, said after a special meeting the body held Thursday afternoon in Tod Hall.

During the session, trustees voted 9-0 to adopt a resolution naming George and fellow trustees Anita A. Hackstedde, Joseph J. Kerola and Laura Lyden to serve on the Presidential Search Guidance Committee to start the process of finding someone to replace Jim Tressel, who began his tenure at YSU’s top post in 2014 and resigned in February. George is to serve as committee convener.

Helen K. Lafferty is serving as YSU’s interim president.

YSU is one of 14 state public universities under the umbrella of the Columbus-based Inter-University Council of Ohio, which can assist in the effort to locate national search firms that YSU might consider to aid in the process of finding a president, George explained.

The other avenue — and a potentially more time-consuming one — would be to submit bids for the position, he said.

Whatever firm YSU selects will receive a list of criteria from the university regarding what trustees are looking for in the candidates, then its recommendations will be brought to YSU officials, he noted. From there, the board of trustees will winnow down the number of candidates to be considered as finalists, George continued.

In addition, the process will include the larger university community such as students, alums and professors, along with donors and possible other stakeholders, he said.

The process of selecting a search firm is to be finalized in June, according to the resolution.


Also at the session, Neal P. McNally, vice president for finance and business operations, offered a bleak report on the university’s enrollment and budget outlook.

Enrollment has declined about 4 percent during each of the last two years at the same time that competition among institutions of higher learning is “intensifying” and public confidence in higher education is “waning,” he told the board.

YSU’s current enrollment is 11,072, according to McNally.

The university has received about $64.6 million in 12 disbursements of federal COVID-19 relief funds, most of which were under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and its Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Part of the money was used to provide emergency financial aid grants to students.

Other funds were earmarked for COVID mitigation and revenue loss recovery, both of which went a long way toward stabilizing the university’s finances during the last three years, McNally pointed out. Nevertheless, that windfall is running out, and the university soon could be facing another deficit that might “worsen over time,” he said.

Projections are for enrollment to continue declining also because of certain trends and demographics. The Mahoning Valley has fewer high school graduates and, on average, smaller families — both of which mean smaller numbers of students coming to YSU, McNally explained. He added that many other public and private universities statewide are facing similar challenges.

McNally, however, was unable to discuss specifics about what programs could be trimmed or eliminated as a result of the future budget situation.

“We’re approaching the next fiscal year with our eyes wide open,” he said.

Also at the meeting, George said the university’s collective-bargaining efforts are continuing, though he was unable to provide updated details, citing confidentiality.


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