This semester, Youngstown State University has created the First Opportunity Award — a lower level $1,000 scholarship that could attract successful students to YSU and improve enrollment numbers in the fall.
To earn this scholarship, students must score a 20 on the ACT and graduate high school with a 3.0 cumulative GPA. In past years, students had to score a minimum of a 22 on the ACT to be considered for scholarship money.
Gary Swegan, YSU’s associative vice president for enrollment management, helped establish the First Opportunity Award; he said the scholarship aligns nicely with the services YSU provides.
“Bottom line is, for the kind of institution that we are, for the kind of students we’re serving, I really felt we needed something else because we need to have something for people who have a 20 on the ACT,” he said.
Elaine Ruse, director of the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, added that the scholarship will benefit a large number of students.
“We needed this scholarship to strengthen and expand our merit-based program offers. The program will provide financial support to a significant number of academically successful new high school graduates,” Ruse said.
Last year, 180 freshmen entered YSU with scores of either a 20 or a 21 on the ACT, though they received no monetary incentive to attend YSU.
Swegan anticipates a significant increase of enrollment from students in this ACT score bracket because of the scholarship incentive. If 198 of these freshmen students enroll next fall, just 18 more than last years numbers, the scholarship will have paid for itself.
“I think we’re on track to do what I was hoping to do,” Swegan said.
Limited state funding — which has become increasingly tied to graduation rates — and a decrease in enrollment have led to a subsequent reduction in the university’s revenue over the past three years. Swegan expects the First Opportunity Award to help reverse this trend by attracting qualified students who are capable of graduating.
“Let’s say what it is. I need to put some points on the board to get us moving in the right direction enrollment-wise,” Swegan said. “It’s about bringing in more students that are capable of being successful as the state transitions to a funding model that puts a whole lot more emphasis on students being able to complete courses and ultimately graduate.”
Elaine Ruse agreed with Swegan and said the scholarship could be a “win, win.”
“I’m thrilled to add First Opportunity to our Scholarships for Excellence program offerings,” Ruse said. “We hope to attract more new high school graduates with this academic profile. If we succeed, YSU is more affordable for the qualified students and new undergraduate enrollment for students with this academic profile increases.”
As of Feb. 14, the university had offered 229 students the First Opportunity Award. Swegan expects that between 300 and 350 students will be offered the award in total.