YOUNGSTOWN - Effective immediately, Youngstown State University is instituting a hiring freeze for non-faculty employees as part of what administrators are calling an effort to bridge a $6.2 million budget gap.
Ron Cole, university communications coordinator, confirmed Wednesday the university is looking to save money through the hiring freeze, which will include non-faculty positions supported by the university's general fund.
He said a memo explaining the freeze was to be issued across campus today.
The freeze affects any vacancies stemming from the university's early retirement program and several other positions that have not yet been filled.
''We're using the word 'freeze,' keeping in mind that it could be necessary to fill certain positions that are necessary to run the university. But that, we expect, will be very rare and any decisions concerning that will be subject to review by the university president and the board of trustees,'' Cole said.
Cole said part of the problem stems from a 4.3 percent drop in enrollment this semester over last year's fall enrollment.
In past weeks YSU president Cynthia Anderson publicly expressed her concerns over the "seriousness of the university's financial circumstances."
Cole said the hiring freeze is one of several ways the university is attempting to address the shortfall. He declined to comment further. The university recently raised tuition by 3.5 percent and has been working to cut operating expenses.
YSU's headcount enrollment - the actual number of students enrolled - is 14,540 this semester, down from 15,194 last fall. In addition, full-time equivalent enrollment - a measure used in budgeting at both the university and state level - is down 3.5 percent.
Since YSU budgeted for a 1 percent increase in full-time enrollment this year, the drop in students means a loss of an estimated $4.5 million in what was budgeted for the university's general fund. That is on top of a projected $1.7 million deficit already in the general fund budget, which is $159 million this fiscal year.
Gene Grilli, vice president for finance and administration, said it's important to understand the severity of the situation and the significant budgetary actions that will be needed to address it. Ohio's public universities are funded through two major sources: state money and tuition revenue. Grilli said state funding in support of public higher education has been on a gradual downward slope for the past decade, with YSU's state allocation being cut by about $7 million in fiscal year 2012, a reduction of more than 15 percent.
In recent weeks, the university has been at a standstill with YSU-Ohio Education Association, which represents about 400 university faculty members, and YSU-Association of Classified Employees, both of which have been working without a new contract since last month.
Representatives on all sides have said health care premiums remain unsettled. Negotiations between administrators and both unions continued on Wednesday.
Cole said he did not know whether any issues were resolved on Wednesday; however, on Friday negotiators reported they were making progress.