YSU streamlines student services

Student services

Graphics by Chris Cotelesse/The Jambar

Youngstown State University is undergoing some organizational changes, which administrators hope will improve student success.

Jack Fahey, vice president for student affairs, said the university should post a job opening for a director of counseling by the end of the week.

The university is operating with just one counselor, even though Fahey said a campus of YSU’s size should have four or five counselors.

However, the International Association of Counseling Services recommends one counselor for every 1,000 to 1,500 students. According to those IACS guidelines, YSU — which boasts more than 14,000 students — should have at least 10 counselors.

Judith Gaines, executive director of student life, is in charge of hiring a counseling director.

“We’d like to see that department expand, and we hope to be able to hire more counselors in the future,” Gaines said.

Gaines said she’s seeking a psychologist who is licensed in the state of Ohio. She’s also looking for someone who can work with traditional college-aged students as well as adults.

In addition, the university is preparing to align the Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center with other student services programs, which also happen to be physically connected, such as the YSU Bookstore, YSU Housing & Residence Life, and Kilcawley Center.

The Rec Center currently reports to the Office of Student Life, but Fahey said it functions as an auxiliary business, like Kilcawley Center, and should be grouped with relatable services.

“It’s more of a service than an academic thing,” Fahey said. “Hopefully, those four services can work together because we’re excited about improving services for our students.”

The student affairs division, which includes Fahey, is also looking to reorganize. Students may be able to access all of their university accounts and records at one station, instead of visiting several windows in Meshel Hall.

The room to maneuver comes from more than 20 positions vacated by an early retirement buyout of classified employees in the departments of financial aid, registration, student accounts and student records.

“It really gives us an opportunity to transform ourselves to meet student needs,” Fahey said. “The one-stop center is designed to be a small staff that help students within one phone call instead of making five.”

Other universities such as Ohio State University, the University of Cincinnati and the University of Minnesota use one-stop centers and have experienced positive results.

“Our student service center is a one stop in the sense that a student can call, come in or email us and handle most of their student needs,” said Nancy Wygle, a communications coordinator in OSU’s enrollment services office.

As part of the university’s strategic plan, OSU administrators implemented this idea nearly four years ago.

Wygle said she knows OSU’s retention rate is climbing, but added that she’s reluctant to say the one-stop center has had a direct effect on retention.

In 2010, OSU experienced a 92.8 percent freshman retention rate.

“I don’t know if these centers are necessarily increasing retention. However, if a student has a good experience, they are more likely to come back and stick with it,” Wygle said. “It’s all a part of any university’s goal to put students first.”

Wygle said OSU’s student services center reduces time spent waiting on the phone and in line during busy times of the quarter. She said all of the center’s specialists are cross-trained by accounts, financial aid, information and registration.

At YSU, no construction or renovation is required for these changes, yet some fiscal expenses will be necessary.

Fahey said student affairs spent about $2,600 for call center hardware and software. However, he said the long-term benefits outweigh the monetary issues.

“It’s a balance,” Fahey said. “These changes will save some money but, more importantly, we’re going to improve the services.”