University prepares prior to board of trustees meeting

Faculty received an email discussing the effects of low student enrollment. Photo by Viktoryia Paliakovich / The Jambar

By Elizabeth Coss

Faculty of Youngstown State University received an email from the Office of Academic Affairs and the Office of Finance and Business Operations Sept. 1 detailing what can be expected if enrollment numbers continue to decline. 

The email was sent ahead of the release of the 14-day enrollment numbers and the board of trustees meeting scheduled for Sept. 20. It states YSU expects enrollment to decline again this semester, and the university will take measures to combat the financial hit taken from decreased enrollment. 

“One important step we can take to ensure YSU’s fiscal sustainability is to reconsider committing university resources to low-enrolled majors, especially when other northeast Ohio universities offer the very same majors,” the email stated.

According to the email, Ohio state law (ORC, Section 3345.35) requires all state universities to submit a low enrollment course and program and duplicate program report with recommended actions universities should take. 

“YSU’s report will be considered by the Board of Trustees’ Academic Excellence & Student Success Committee on Sept. 20, 2022. This report will help provide a roadmap to ensuring that we offer courses in the most cost-efficient and non-duplicative manner possible,” the email stated. 

Mark Vopat, president of the faculty union and professor of religious studies, said discussions are ongoing between the university and the YSU-OEA. 

“The university and the union are in negotiations … about a voluntary separation retirement package, similar to the one last year,” Vopat said. “The union views this as the better of a bad situation. It’s just less bad. If there are people who, you know, want to take this separation agreement, the potential is that it might save other tenure track positions here at the university.”

Vopat elaborated on how offers to potentially ready-to-retire faculty might save jobs. 

“We wish it wasn’t the case, but it’s better that individuals are able to walk away with some sort of financial security rather than walking away with nothing,” Vopat said. “This can save some jobs and that’s what we’re hoping is the outcome, but we wish we didn’t have to go through this again.”

The university has seen a decrease in enrollment over the past four years. Enrollment is projected to decline again this year from the total 11,298 students who were enrolled last year

Ron Cole, director of communications at the university, said the budget of a university is dependent on tuition revenue. 

“The more students that enroll, the higher the revenue generated by tuition. We build our annual budget on a projected 14-day enrollment. For the 2022-23 fiscal year, the budget is based on a projected 4 % decline in [full-time equivalent] enrollment,” Cole said. “The university continues with a variety of initiatives to ensure efficiencies across campus, including review of all academic programming and staffing.”

The Jambar reached out to Provost Brien Smith and the Vice President for Finance and Business Operations, Neal McNally, both were unavailable for comment.