As state funding for public universities becomes increasingly tied to graduation rates, Youngstown State University President Randy Dunn, in a press conference on Tuesday, announced more stringent guidelines on the conditional enrollment policy.
Dunn said he has worked with the admissions office to prepare a more selective approach to admitting students conditionally. Conditional enrollment is an educational policy that allows low success students to enroll on a trial basis.
“The way open enrollment, if you will, had been handled at the university was to admit students conditionally and then see how they fared over the course of a period of time and then make a decision whether to de-admit or allow them to continue as students at the university,” Dunn said. “You have again a fairly wide approach through conditional admits to give students that may not be fully college ready, the opportunity to come in and show that they can succeed. The difference here is that we are not going to extend that to every living, breathing human being.”
In the past, YSU — at least conditionally — accepted all students with a GED diploma or high school diploma, despite low ACT scores and high school GPAs. Beginning next fall semester, though, YSU will rely on the discretion of admissions professionals to determine students’ college readiness, turning away those who are educationally at risk.
Jack Fahey, vice president of Student Affairs, added that there will be no strict criteria to this new conditional enrollment policy. Enrollment will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
“We are going to look at the whole package. When we are on the fence with someone, those kind of things, maybe even a reference from a principal or a teacher, we are going to look at the whole individual,” Fahey said.
Dunn said limiting admissions during a period of decreasing enrollment will not negatively affect the university’s revenue. Instead, Dunn indicated this policy change will bolster graduation rates and will subsequently increase state funding.
“We are also now in a situation, you understand, where our performance as a university in the state of Ohio is being graded, and this is a high stakes measure of our performance because our state funding is tied to it, we are talking of millions of dollars here,” Dunn said. “The challenges we have in graduation rates, the challenges we have on loan default, I think are directly attributable to the fact that we have enrolled students again who haven’t been college ready.”
Dunn also explained that the university has a moral duty to avoid the admission of students likely to drop out.
“If you go back and look at the ACT performance on that [freshmen class of 2012], we had roughly 1 percent, maybe a little more or less…of the students who scored between 6 and 12 on the ACT. Those students are not college ready,” Dunn said. “Then you have a situation where a student may be signing up for classes for a year, taking out loans to pay for school and going through the end of the process and not being successful.”
Fahey added that the university plans to use this change to produce stronger partnerships with local community colleges, while simultaneously encouraging YSU’s research initiatives.
“Part of the strategic plan was to actively partner with Eastern Gateway. The point is to have, for everyone in this region to have an appropriate pathway that they can be successful in terms of increasing their educational attainment. For most of the history of this region, Youngstown State had to be everything to all the students in this region,” Fahey said. “Now that we have Eastern Gateway, we have an opportunity to differentiate ourselves some and we are going to do that very gradually so we can make that transition to becoming an urban research institution.”
YSU will still accessible education and few students will be impacted by the universities enrollment policy change.
“I think it is very liberal, I think it is very expansive, I think it, in institutions I have been associated with, I think it is one of the widest that you would find in allowing conditional admission to the university. And I am not against that,” Dunn said. “We are talking 22 to 25 students. So what I’m hopeful of is the fact, as we become more aggressive in our overall recruitment, we can more than make up for those students who we may well lose.”