YSU Board of Trustees holds special meeting on campus

In light of continued decreases in enrollment and the resulting projected budgetary impact, the Youngstown State University Board of Trustees today expressed their support of the university administration working with the academic leadership and faculty to take the steps necessary to sustain the academic and fiscal future of the institution.

“The demographic trends that we’ve anticipated are proving true as our enrollment declined significantly this year and is projected to continue into future years,” said John Jakubek, board chair.

“Those realities, impacted even more by the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, mean that we must take steps to Take Charge of Our Future to reduce the decline and ensure the continued delivery of high quality, distinctive academic programs.”

YSU’s enrollment has declined by 1,398 students or 11 percent in the last three years and now stands at an all-time low of 11,298, due in part to continued declines in high school graduates across the region, which expectedly is having a significant and negative impact on University revenues. Notably, the decline in enrollment is also contributed to by increasingly larger numbers of students graduating in recent years.

“While the challenges are real and many, they are not unexpected,” YSU President Jim Tressel said. “We have worked hard over the past several years, through our strategic planning and academic program review processes, to position ourselves to make informed decisions and take deliberate actions that we believe will make YSU a stronger and more sustainable institution for years to come.”

Board members met this morning on campus and engaged in a lengthy discussion that focused on the academic vibrancy and sustainable prosperity of YSU over the next 10 to 20 years. The discussion included a panel of higher education experts knowledgeable about student enrollment trends, optimizing the academic portfolio, and innovation in higher education.

After the meeting, the board approved a resolution that calls for continued rigorous quality improvement and academic portfolio optimization including disinvestment for reinvestment in faculty positions that support the optimized academic portfolio, a focus on academic priorities aligned with achieving strategic distinction, and continued diligence to align the activities of the academic support areas to advance the academic agenda.

Provost Brien Smith said much work has been done over the past several months and years to better position YSU for the downward enrollment trend, including implementation of the Plan for Strategic Actions Take Charge of Our Future endorsed by the Board of Trustees in June 2020.

Smith said the university also has made significant improvements in student success and support programs, implemented several new student recruitment and retention strategies and completed a deep examination and assessment of all academic programs on campus through the Academic Program Enhancement and Effectiveness Initiative (APEEI). APEEI helped identify academic programs that are best aligned with enrollment including the sunsetting of programs.

“The shift in enrollment certainly presents challenges, and we are positioned to assure our decisions are data-informed and mission aligned,” Smith said. “We are fortunate, however, to have in place a firm foundation for on-going assessments of the academic portfolio, based on deliberate and collaborative discussions and using the best data available, to make strategic decisions to support a sustainable future for Youngstown State University.”

We will continue this process as we continue to implement our Plan for Strategic Actions to Take Charge of Our Future.