Follow the money

Much like the Statue of Liberty, this school has historically accepted the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

You needed to actually try to get turned away from a desk on campus.

As Ohio changes the funding formula to more heavily favor graduation rates over enrollment, YSU’s stay-as-long-as-you-need atmosphere is no longer cost-effective.

Now, quick, efficient changes to university operations need to be implemented in order to increase performance in the new system.

Universities will potentially be rewarded for students who actually get degrees, which makes YSU’s open enrollment policy more detrimental than beneficial.

A conditional enrollment policy was implemented last year, but it’s hard to imagine a university, especially one struggling mightily to counter continually decreasing enrollment levels, to begin turning away tuition money on the basis of subpar academics.

YSU is now between a rock and a hard place. Lose money from tuition dollars by cultivating a heightened academic climate, or continue to rely on tuition dollars from students who don’t necessarily deserve to be on a university campus to compensate for losses in funding.

Financially, the past few years have been rocky.

A 3.5 percent decrease in enrollment triggered a $7 million nosedive in YSU’s operating budget in fall 2011. In fall 2012, the second consecutive year of enrollment declines caused another deficit, this time around $2.7 million.

On Tuesday night, Gov. John Kasich touted the vibrant state economy.

Unemployment rates have decreased almost 4 percent over the past two years.

He said “jobs” 25 times, and rightfully so, as Ohio has seen an increase of 120,400 jobs since Kasich took office.

But that’s the last thing YSU needs.

Economical improvements result in empty chairs in college classrooms. From fall 2011 to fall 2012, Ohio’s university system witnessed a 1 percent decrease in enrollment overall, while the entire higher education system shrunk by nearly 6 percent.

YSU has one of the lowest graduation rates in the state, because unprepared students are added to class rosters without a second thought. And when they drop out, they’re left with thousands in debt and no education.

The development and growth of Eastern Gateway Community College has provided refuge for regional residents who want higher education but aren’t fully prepared for the work.

As tough as it may be, YSU may need to bite the bullet for a year or two and start turning people away. Once YSU starts filtering lesser-qualified students, then it’ll start reaping the rewards.