Students worry about academics

By Mia Albaugh

Youngstown State University students are worried about the quality of their education as national college enrollment declines, causing budget cuts in colleges and universities.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from January 2020 to September 2021, 491,400 people working in higher education lost their jobs nationwide.

Katie Soupal, a freshman early childhood and special education major, has already seen the cuts impacting her registration for spring classes.

“Cutting classes is really impactful for what I can get in for a semester,” Soupal said. “I have a really weird schedule.”

Daniella Girardi, a junior exercise science major, has already taken the classes she needs before the cuts, but she sees the cuts affecting the freshmen on campus.

“If you think about it in a positive way, if they don’t replace those with other classes, that’s one less class you got to take,” Girardi said.

Hannah Antal, a freshman forensic science major, hopes the cuts don’t impact her spring classes and worries about the other freshmen. 

“Even if you’re in advanced classes in high school, you might need to take that class as a freshman, and you won’t be able to take it,” Antal said.

From 2009-2019, nationwide undergraduate enrollment declined by 5%, which equates to 1 million fewer students enrolling yearly, according to the National Center for Education Services.

Since the pandemic, colleges continue to suffer. Undergraduate student enrollment dropped by nearly 5% this spring, seven times worse than the decline in previous years, according to a report by National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

As a result, colleges are cutting expenditures to compensate for the loss of revenue from student tuition.

An example of this close to the Mahoning Valley is University of Akron. At the end of 2020 and into 2021, the university had a loss of revenue of 5.6%, according to the Arbitration Decision and Award report. Besides tuition, the university’s revenue from parking, the Edwin J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall, residence hall refunds and other funds were impacted by the pandemic.

YSU is experiencing similar circumstances, cutting staff and “sunsetting” programs.

According to an email sent to the campus community by Provost Brien Smith, university officials plan to make deliberate, data-informed decisions to ensure sustainability at YSU.

In an interview, Smith explained that not all classes within the sunset majors will go away.

“In many cases, just because a major is going away, that doesn’t mean that we’re not going to be teaching the classes,” Smith said. “We don’t intend on pulling the rug out from under students by not having classes available for them.”

Smith said university officials are hoping to see fewer small classes offered at YSU.

From the early months of the pandemic to now, the U.S. has seen the biggest loss of jobs ever for people working in higher education — even compared to the Great Recession of 2008.

The bureau has calculated industry-specific employee estimates each month since the 1950s. This loss of jobs for employees at colleges and universities has never been recorded at such a dramatic rate.