By Elizabeth Coss and Samantha Smith
The future of Youngstown State University’s faculty was left in the air after a special meeting held by the Board of Trustees on Monday, Oct. 25. The meeting highlighted the decline in enrollment by 11%, causing a loss in revenue and pushing the board to consider what means are necessary to improve budget spending.
The board moved in favor of the adoption of the resolution related to YSU’s future state. All trustees present at the meeting voted in favor of moving forward with the resolution, making for a quick adjournment.
Despite the meeting going quickly, questions about a stable future for faculty were left unanswered.
Provost and vice president of Academic Affairs Brien Smith was a lead for the effort going forward and spoke on numerous subjects pertaining to the meeting, especially faculty.
“In the short run, we may see fewer non-tenured faculty and fewer adjuncts,” Smith said. “Certainly, when you’re looking at budget cuts — naturally — some people are going to be affected.”
YSU President Jim Tressel took no surprise at the decline in enrollment. However, he acknowledged that as revenue goes down, the amount of money to invest goes down too.
“Our work force has had a little bit of an attrition, I think we had $4.5 million worth of staff positions over the course of the last couple years just through attrition,” he said. “I think our faculty when I got here was in the neighborhood of 390 full-time faculty — and it’s around 370 now — but there will be more natural attrition, but there may be some targeted attrition.”
Despite the board facing the lowest numbers of enrollment in the recorded history of YSU, it aims to see millions of dollars in reductions by fall 2022 by possibly cutting faculty and reevaluating curriculums. Over the past year, YSU has sunset 13 total programs, one of the largest to be announced recently was the Master of Fine Arts.
“As we see falling enrollments, the technical — my technical definition of sunsetting — you would see that come into play as well, and we would have to look at other ways that programs are not performing well,” Smith said.
He also mentioned cutting specific classes that have a small number of students to help balance out costs.
“First of all, we need to look at as many places where we have curricular inefficiencies,” Smith said. “One way we are looking at this is where do we have small classes, particularly those who have fewer than 15 students. Not every case, but on average, 15 students is about the break-even point, so that means classes with less than 15 students [are] not making us money.”
He said the board is being mindful of what cuts it may make to ensure it does not cut a crucial part of the institution.
By Nov. 15, a number of steps and expected solutions will be released, outlining the deficit and defining a phased approach describing how the university plans to tackle reducing expenses.