On November 18, Gary Swegan began serving as Youngstown State University’s first associative vice president for enrollment management.
Though his long-term goal will be to bolster the university’s enrollment numbers — which have fallen for the past three years — Swegan spent his first month on the job getting to know the campus.
“I have done about 110 appointments with people or committee meetings,” Swegan said. “I insist on going wherever people are.”
Swegan’s decision to learn the campus environment garnered praise from YSU President Randy Dunn, who said Swegan has made “all the right first steps.”
“He is working hard, putting in the hours, learning how our processes function at the institution and talking to many individuals who have an impact on building enrollment,” Dunn said.
With a month under his belt, Swegan indicated that it is now time to begin building the university’s enrollment infrastructure.
“I’ve enjoyed sort of figuring out the puzzle pieces, and now it’s a matter of starting to put them together,” Swegan said. “Now we’re about to head into what I call ‘phase one’ of some action planning.”
Though the exact numbers for spring semester have not yet been calculated, Swegan expects enrollment to be similar to that of fall semester — down about 3 percent. Part of Swegan’s “phase one” of action planning is to improve enrollment for next fall.
“Our immediate goal is to bring in a bigger fall and then do it again the next year. And then that snowball that’s been rolling down hill just as quickly starts to pick up momentum the other way,” Swegan said.
To bolster fall enrollment, Swegan said the university has considered creating a lower-level scholarship with less stringent continuation expectations, a move that could attract successful incoming students.
Swegan indicated that collecting enrollment data — including number of students per major, number of transfer students and number of students per class — will also help to improve the university’s enrollment.
“We’ve got to be able to provide information and get it in the right hands at the right time — meaning to academic hands particularly, so that we can deputize others to help us in the recruitment process,” Swegan said. “But right now, if I’m sitting out in a college and I can’t get the information from admissions or from whatever source, I don’t know who the students are that I’m seeking to recruit.”
Both Dunn and Swegan acknowledged that enrollment remains a problem for YSU, and solving this problem could take some time.
“It can take even two or up to three years to see the impact of the changes we’re making now to build enrollment,” Dunn said. “I still feel very good that we will eventually see growth in student numbers — the question is ‘will it be soon enough to mitigate some of the very tough financial challenges we’re facing right now, without having to majorly change our operational model in the meantime?’.”
Swegan added that despite enrollment challenges, he still has high hopes for the university’s future.
“[YSU is] a tremendous value, you get a great education, but we’ve got some issues we’ve got to overcome,” he said. “And, I don’t feel any less optimistic than on day one.”