YSU trustees approve budget, endorse academic program recommendations

Youngstown State University

The Youngstown State University Board of Trustees today approved a $172.6 million fiscal year 2022 operating budget and also endorsed a set of recommendations to optimize the university’s portfolio of academic programs, identifying more than a dozen programs that show potential for growth.

The 2021-22 budget includes a tuition increase of less than 1 percent annually over four years for the incoming class of freshmen students in the Penguin Promise, a program that guarantees tuition will not increase for students during their four years in school.

“Keeping student costs as low as possible has always been a priority here at YSU,” said Neal McNally, YSU vice president for Finance and Operations. “This budget allows us to maintain a tuition that ranks among the lowest in the state.”

Due mostly to declining regional demographics and lingering uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the budget projects a 5 percent decrease in enrollment, resulting in an estimated $5.3 million decline in tuition revenue. To balance the budget, the plan calls for a $1 million transfer from the university’s reserves and the use of one-time federal COVID-19 relief funding.

Meanwhile, the board approved recommendations from the university’s first comprehensive review of academic programs in at least two decades.

“This data-informed evaluation and the resulting recommendations will serve to inform our understanding of the resources needed to support the curriculum and identify changes necessary to enhance program quality and effectiveness,” Provost Brien Smith said.

“Such a review and the accompanying actions are overdue. We are pleased to reach this point, and we thank the hundreds of faculty, department chairs, deans, staff, members of the YSU Academic Senate and others who have participated in this important process.”

The months-long review is part of YSU’s Plan for Strategic Actions to Take Charge of Our Future approved by the Board of Trustees in June 2020. In addition, the Higher Learning Commission, which provides institutional accreditation, specifically recommended in its most recent accreditation visit in 2018 that YSU show progress in a comprehensive review of academic programs.

Using a data analytics and a strategy consulting firm focused on higher education, and under the guidance of faculty,, each academic program was assessed based on many factors including student interest, available jobs, competition, program economics and statements generated by the academic program faculty of alignment with YSU’s mission.

The review identified programs for growth, as well as programs that my require further adjustments to determine their viability for continuation. These programs will receive additional deliberation by the Office of Academic Affairs with Academic Senate involvement for consideration of board action in September.

“YSU, like every academic institution, is facing a confluence of complex market dynamics,” YSU President Jim Tressel said. “That’s why now, more than ever, we need to ensure that our portfolio of academic programs are functioning in the most effective way possible. These recommendations put us on a path that will allow YSU to remain a competitive institution that continues to inspire individuals, enhance futures and enrich lives.”

Anita Hackstedde, chair of the YSU Board of Trustees, added: “Our thanks to our dedicated faculty and our talented academic administrators for recognizing the importance of this evaluation and for their participation in the process. We look forward to continue working collaboratively as we begin implementation of these recommendations. We also look forward to the Fall when we anticipate a 14-day enrollment report.”