Spring enrollment slump

Proactive measures softened the impact of spring semester’s enrollment decline, a 5.7 percent decrease from fall.

Youngstown State University’s 14-day enrollment sits at 13,698, an 843-student drop from last semester. Little effect will be felt, as YSU officials have anticipated the drop since the board of trustees’ retreat in November.

“Spring enrollment is directly tied to fall enrollment. So, since our fall enrollment went down, we fully expected this decrease in enrollment in the spring semester,” Ron Cole, director of university communications, said in an email.

During the fall, budget director Neal McNally grappled with a $7 million operating budget deficit due to a roughly 4.5 percent decrease in enrollment.

McNally and Gene Grilli, vice president for finance and administration, devised a plan to close the gap by using nearly $2 million in reserve funds over the next two years. 

Prolonged position vacancies, many of which came by way of the early retirement incentive program, are also expected to assuage the budget deficit from lowered enrollment.

“Every request to fill those [vacant] positions [is] being closely scrutinized by the president’s executive Cabinet and the president herself,” Cole said.

McNally said the vacancies would likely remain throughout the fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Cuts had been made in the original FY 2012 budget to prepare for a projected shortfall of $1.7 million.

“We made significant budget cuts in preparing the original FY 12 budget — somewhere in the range of $4 million,” McNally said.

Despite their efforts, a greater shortfall resulted in the wake of enrollment attrition.

“We did make cuts, but we did not make additional cuts,” McNally said. “We will not cut our budgets any more this year unless there’s a catastrophic event.” 

Historically, spring enrollment numbers are lower than fall.

“We always have [had spring decreases]. It’s just the nature of higher ed,” McNally said.

In spring 2011, enrollment was 14,253, which is 3.89 percent higher, or 555 more students, than in 2012.

“This is only the second time since 2000 that spring semester enrollment has gone down at YSU,” Cole said.

Across campus, losses were experienced in all colleges but Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, which saw a 0.28 percent gain. 

Martin Abraham, dean of STEM, attributes his college’s minimal growth to the economy and a realization of the technical skills needed in today’s society.

“It’s job opportunities more so than anything we’re doing here in the college,” Abraham said. “I think the reality is that we’re fortunate that our students, in some respects, have persisted better.”

The Beeghly College of Education lost 212 students, a change of 13.5 percent. The Williamson College of Business Administration witnessed a drop of 5.6 percent, while the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services witnessed a 4 percent decline.

McNally is already looking ahead, foreshadowing a 1 percent enrollment increase projection in the FY 2013 budget, which would produce $1 million in additional revenue.

“We’re assuming somewhat flat enrollment, [perhaps] modest enrollment growth,” McNally said. “Some of that will be attributed to online distance [education] course offerings, which we hope to expand in the somewhat near future.”