What does YSU’s future hold?

Youngstown University became Youngstown State University 56 years ago. The goal is for it to be around for 56 more. Photo Courtesy of Nicholas Bianco

By Nicholas Bianco
Jambar Contributor

Youngstown State University has been around for over 100 years, but it might not be around for 100 more.

According to Youngstown State University’s Preliminary Fall Term Enrollment Summary, there were 15,194 full-time students enrolled in 2010 and 11,072 full-time students in 2022, the lowest in its history. 

Despite the drop, some YSU administration members are optimistic on what the future holds for the university. 

Mike Sherman, vice president of YSU Student Affairs, Institutional Effectiveness and board professional, said the future for YSU is bright because of the degree programs the campus offers.

“We’re going to be positioned in the region to be on everybody’s career success pathway,” Sherman said. 

Sherman also said YSU has a strategic plan, which can be found on the YSU’s Strategic Planning website. Student futures, lifelong learning, academic distinction, the discovery of knowledge and collective impact in the region must join together for the plan to work.  

“There’s the faculty, there’s the staff [and] there’s the leadership, and we all have to work together to implement the strategies of our plan for strategic actions to take charge of our future because we all contribute to the success of the plan,” Sherman said. “We’ve gotten to where we’re at with the best faculty staff, great students and an outstanding leadership team.”  

Sherman said the new “Know Y” brand will increase YSU’s visibility to potential students and families. 

Neal McNally, YSU’s chief financial officer, said YSU competes with other state and national universities and programs. The challenge for YSU is holding on to its market share and making the university an attractive option for prospective students. 

“If we learned one thing over the last five years, it’s just how quickly things can change,” McNally said. “When you throw in the online elements, we’re basically competing with universities all over the country.”

Despite wanting to draw in more students, McNally said there is a plan to decrease the physical size of YSU buildings. 

“[The Zoldan Center] is a major project that will intentionally and deliberately reduce square footage, so the new zone center will be smaller by about 30,000 square feet.” 

McNally said maintenance and energy costs were the top reasons for decreasing YSU’s physical size.  

“We saw a $1.2 million increase in our janitorial service contract. We consume a lot of electricity and energy by operating a lot of buildings, but a lot of our buildings aren’t fully at capacity.” 

McNally said YSU can be successful despite its declining enrollment. 

“We could be a university of 9,000 or 10,000 or smaller and be a successful university with successful outcomes,” McNally said.  

McNally said YSU should reach these goals over the next five years and he’s placing his trust in the board of trustees and the administration to reach these goals.  

Brien Smith, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, said YSU will continue to explore ways to maximize students’ success and explained new additions to the campus. 

“We have a new director in our career area, and we’re upgrading our mental health facilities to be able to address student needs,” Smith said. 

Smith said those with additional concerns can speak to their academic advisors. 

“We continue to take pride in the region and … how we serve our students,” Smith said. “When I use the word partner, we need our students to partner with us, having a concern and not reaching out is not helpful to the student and it doesn’t help us to help you.”  

Despite the general decline, the campus has seen an increase in international student enrollment. According to the YSU Preliminary Enrollment Summary, there were 339 international students enrolled in fall 2020. It increased to 561 students in fall. 

“The reason international student numbers are going up is because a plan to target international students was implemented,” Sherman said. “It’s a combination of undergraduate and graduate student attraction that really has increased international student enrollment.”

McNally said the Recruiting Strategies and International Program Office were given the task of recruiting international students.  

Smith said the university conducted studies which showed where potential YSU international students are in the world, as well as what graduate programs are in demand.

“We found a group of students that are very interested in such things like graduate education and computer science,” Smith said. “Through appropriate marketing and recruitment, we were able to bring many more graduate students to the campus this year.”