The Youngstown State University Board of Trustees’ Finance and Facilities Committee voted Feb. 20 on a proposal to increase tuition by 2.4 percent — for in-state undergraduates — at the start of fall semester 2014, equating to a $94-per-semester increase for a full-time student. The full board will vote on the proposal on March 12.
This brings tuition for these full-time students to $8,088 per year.
Despite the tuition increase, Neal McNally, budget director at YSU and soon to be the interim vice president for Finance and Administration, said the university’s tuition will still remain among the lowest in the state.
“We are certainly one of the most affordable institutions in the region, certainly in the state of Ohio. What we’re proposing today, in terms of tuition, would keep YSU as one of the best priced institutions with $1600 below the state-wide average and nearly $2000 below the state-wide median,” McNally said.
Sudershan Garg, chair of the Board of Trustees, said these additional funds are needed to offset the loss of state revenue — which decreased by $768,000 this fiscal year — and prevent the budget hole from growing wider.
“No matter which university you may be, every university is going to raise tuition because the state funding is lower and lower,” Garg said. “Even with the increase in tuition, to the maximum allowed by the state, our budget will be still $8 million in the hole, and if we don’t do that, our budget hole will be greater.”
This price jump attempts to combat the 12 percent enrollment drop over the past three years and the $8,868,000 loss in state funding from fiscal year 2012 to fiscal year 2014 by raising an additional $2 million in revenue.
Eric Shehadi, a student trustee, said he voted for the proposal to maintain the quality of education at the university.
“At YSU, we offer an incredible value for the cost of the education, and the university is facing tough times and to keep that same level of value — to keep the same level of programs, same quality of education for our students — we have to move with the times,” Shehadi said.
The tuition increase falls $94 short of the Ohio tuition regulations that caps yearly tuition increases at $188 for full-time, undergraduate students.
YSU President Randy Dunn said as long as the university remains economical, enrollment should not suffer.
“I think every president country-wide hates to have to go with a board and increase tuition. We are reaching a limit, not just at Youngstown State but every place in the country, where we just can’t keep doing it at the rate we have every year,” Dunn said. “If you look at cost difference between us and other public, short of Shawnee [State University] and Central [State University], we are thousands of dollars cheaper in some cases. So I think students have to remember that too; we are still a very strong value for the tuition dollar. As long as we don’t lose the value equation, I think we’re okay.”
Students inside the YSU Affordable Tuition Advantage area, including a total of 16 counties in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York, will also experience a tuition increase of $94 per semester.
Graduate students will experience a slightly larger tuition raise, increasing $158, or 3 percent, per semester for in-state students. Dunn said the graduate program is not impacted by the state regulations.
“It is not subject to the cap. We think we can be a little bit more aggressive in the pricing there, but we don’t want to get too far out of line because that is where we have had some enrollment growth,” Dunn said.
Harry Meshel, former state senator and YSU trustee, said he voted against the increase and emphasizes the importance of ways to further increase enrollment.
“It is not easy to keep up with cost and some cost increases are legitimate. I just hate them. I don’t like them; I don’t like to vote for them,” Meshel said. “It [enrollment] is a critical, critical thing for us to do because — without a growth in students — we don’t have much growth in money because we aren’t getting much out of the state anymore. Enrollment means a great deal to us.”