Board of trustees talks sunsetting programs, student enrollment

Youngstown State University
Photo by C. Aileen Blaine

by Sydney Stalnecker

The Board of Trustees gathered to discuss the enrollment of future Youngstown State University penguins, the continuation of program reviews and the election of board officials on June 2.

Brien Smith, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, updated the board on the Academic Program Enhancement and Effectiveness Initiative.

“Program review is the self-study of academic programs to determine their alignment with YSU’s mission and strategic outcomes,” Smith said. “The process examines future educational offerings, evaluates future potential of those programs and determines opportunities for program alignment and reinvestment to strengthen the university.”

To conduct program reviews, Smith reached out to chairs, deans and faculty within certain programs to evaluate individual majors. This is how the university decides to put more resources into a program, maintain the same amount of resources or stop funding a program.  In the case of the latter, the term they use is “sunset” rather than “eliminate.” 

Out of all the enrolled and active students at YSU, 2.3% are in a program that will be eliminated and 12.3% are in a program that will be “adjusted.” Students in the majors to be eliminated will be able to finish their degree, but no incoming students will be allowed to start it. This information was provided by Smith via a publicly-available PDF of the committee’s agenda.

The list of programs falling into the sunset category hasn’t been made public. YSU’s faculty union, YSU-OEA, released a statement June 4 expressing their disappointment in the board’s decision to continue program reviews without reviewing the cost of non-academic programs. It also discusses YSU-OEA President Suz Clutter’s concern for the university’s plan to guide program changes beyond the initial reviews.

“Faculty want clear and appropriate direction on how we move forward, yet there is no guidance on how we make improvements or positive changes to our programs,” Clutter said in the YSU-OEA statement.

The APEEI determines the resources necessary to maintain the curriculum of all majors and outlines any changes needed to make certain programs more affordable for the university and students. Smith said this process increases the quality and effectiveness of classes offered at YSU.

“There are other factors to pursue program review. These include: to improve the quality of programs, to improve productivity, to increase revenue, to contain costs, to prioritize resource allocation, and to increase accountability,” Smith said.

Mike Sherman, vice president for Institutional Effectiveness, spoke about working with the Education Advisory Board, which is now also known as Royall & Company. The EAB helps market universities to high school students and adults seeking higher education.

“Our colleagues [at] EAB play an important role in providing the framework and context around which we can anticipate enrollment trends, attributes and characteristics of individuals entering higher education,” Sherman said.

EAB uses metadata to discover likely candidates for YSU’s future classes.

“Recently, they acquired that through metadata on the internet produces candidates from around the country that are most likely to be potentially enrolled down the road at YSU because of their various search habits, their various attributes that could be determined or discovered on the web,” Sherman said.

Using EAB boosts the enrollment of people with these search habits and attributes up to 55% Sherman said.  However, YSU is not only employing EAB to gather future students, YSU is using it to create statistics on the success of current students as well.

“They’ve agreed to receive information from us related to students, obviously blinded, that will help us better understand the attributes and characteristics of individuals both from an academic preparation perspective,” Sherman said. “As well as other variables that might exist in the data set that can help us run some pretty sophisticated statistics.”

The goal of Sherman and EAB is to determine the behaviors and academic success of current YSU students to determine how to better the classes offered and increase the amount of successful students in the future.

Board members were elected for new positions as well. The board agreed to elect John R. Jakubek as Chair, Charles T. George as Vice Chair, and Molly S. Seals as Secretary for the 2021-22 academic year. The board also agreed to reappoint Eric A. Spiegel for a second three-year term as the national/global trustee.