YSU taking look at its programs

YOUNGSTOWN — Youngstown State University officials will be taking a hard look at what works, and what might not, going into the future.

Under scrutiny will be programs and classes with too few students to make them financially sustainable.

University administration said Monday it’s eager to work with faculty and academic leadership to achieve greater sustainability and vibrancy. But enrollment has dropped about 11 percent, or 1,398 students, over the last three years.

This largely is because of a shrinking pool of high school graduates throughout the Mahoning Valley, Trustee John Jakubek noted during a special YSU Board of Trustees meeting Monday afternoon in the Kilcawley Center to address the problem.

Compounding the situation is larger numbers of students have graduated from YSU in recent years, officials have said.

Enrollment this fall semester is 11,298 students, an all-time low since records were kept. Such demographics are expected to continue, especially with fewer students expected to graduate from area and regional high schools over the next five to 10 years, Jakubek, board chairman, said.

The downward trend also negatively and greatly has impacted the university’s revenues, although YSU’s budget is balanced largely because of a one-time infusion of more than $10 million in federal COVID-19 relief money.

The grim larger picture could mean discontinuing certain programs — especially those with too few students to make them financially sustainable and combining others, although neither Jakubek nor Brien Smith, provost and vice president of academic affairs, was specific regarding which ones.

Some classes might be eliminated, offered every other semester or combined with like ones. The university also will take a closer look at which programs could benefit its academic future, the provost noted.

Such moves, however, first would have to be worked out with the Office of Academic Affairs and the YSU Ohio Education Association union, Jakubek explained.

No mention of layoffs was made.

In a letter earlier this month to the campus community, Smith and Neal McNally, vice president for finance and operations, said YSU’s operating budget for fiscal 2022 was based partly on the assumption that enrollment would drop again this year.

Fees and tuition for this fall semester are $2.6 million less than last fall; Smith and McNally also estimated such revenue will decrease $5.6 million over the 2021-22 fiscal year.

Also during the session, Smith said officials will have to look more closely at “curriculum inefficiencies” that include classes with fewer than 15 students, which he called “the break-even point, on average.”

The provost added he hopes the process of examining such inefficiencies across the campus will be figured out before the fall 2022 semester.

Trustees set a Nov. 15 deadline to announce the first phase of a plan to achieve that goal, Smith continued, adding any cuts or consolidations would take on “a phased approach.”

“We have to tighten our belt and become more efficient,” YSU President Jim Tressel said, adding it’s a complicated process to figure out which programs to eliminate to offset revenue losses and further discussions will be needed.


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