Enrollment is down. Again.
For the second straight year, YSU must cope with a lower enrollment than expected. Full-time equivalent enrollment is down by 4.3 percent from 2011 and 7.6 percent from 2010. The result is that the university will bring in $4.5 million less in tuition revenue than it had projected in the annual budget. The loss of revenue must be reconciled because the university can only afford to take money out of its “rainy day” fund for so long. More than likely, these cuts will come in some form that harms students. Or, worse, this bad planning will lead to a lack of improvements for students. (Kilcawley Center still hasn’t been renovated.)
The view of the administration that this enrollment decline and subsequent budget problems were inevitable is absolutely false. The fault of this problem lies in many of the individuals in the YSU administration, all of whom fail to take blame for this now huge problem. The blame really falls on all of them as a collective whole.
One of the main reasons that YSU currently is in this fiscal hole is that enrollment for fall 2012 was expected to remain flat, i.e., no rise or fall. However, this problem was foreseen but not acted upon by the administration. As The Jambar reported, Ron Cole said, “There were times over the summer where it looked like it was going to be in the 7, 8, maybe 9 percent range.” Jack Fahey admitted to The Jambar that in the summer, enrollment numbers were down from the same time the year prior. So, we foresaw a huge decline in enrollment but still planned for a flat enrollment number?
Despite indications that enrollment was dropping, YSU had faith that the numbers would recover to be equal to the prior year. Now, I am an optimist but that is way more than optimism. Despite these indications, projections remained for a flat number, a budget was drafted for a flat number and a budget was approved for a flat number. The fault here is in all three entities that made these decisions: student affairs, budget committee and the board of trustees. Fault exists, but there is no accountability for these actions.
Students should be even more upset over the excuses given for the enrollment decline. Many have cited the improving area economy as a reason for enrollment decline, which is true, but it should have been planned for, as the economy in this area has been recovering for a number of years.
Additionally, the budget should have been made more conservatively, not on a “we’ll-cross-that-bridge-when-we-come-to-it” attitude toward a potential enrollment decline. More advertising and more recruitment, especially from farther away, could have helped offset the enrollment decline.
Not every university in Ohio has faced a decline. Ohio University and Miami University have both experienced increased enrollment. Marketing and communications has understandably been handcuffed by YSU’s $450,000 budget compared to Kent State University, which spends $1.5 million.
However, more money can be allocated for marketing YSU to more people, and a marketing scheme more focused on the best things YSU has to offer. (I have never seen an advertisement featuring YSU’s Honors Program, Engineering program, or business school, all of which can attract people to YSU.)
So, students should take a good long look at those making decisions with their money and make sure that they are held accountable.
Kevin Snyder Youngstown