Over the past several years, you have received regular updates on the state of YSU’s sustainability in the context of enrollment and enrollment trends. Enrollment numbers collected from the Fall 2022 14th day enrollment census are now available, and they indicate YSU’s overall 2022-23 enrollment will be down 4% in full-time equivalent students. An associated decline in revenue combined with a significant existing structural financial deficit require a response now that will guide YSU to a sustainable future. An earlier communication from Vice President Neal McNally and myself specified that “it is imperative that we continue to contain costs, reduce low-demand academic programs, invest in programs with growth potential and expand initiatives that foster student success.”
In response to similar challenges last year, we offered a Voluntary Separation or Retirement Program (VSRP), and several actions followed that resulted in retrenchment and contract non-renewal. Since then, we have introduced a number of initiatives to attract more students (e.g., online graduate programs), and together we have made remarkable progress in student success (e.g., retention approaching 80%; graduation rates nearing 50%). Still, unless we find new ways to contain costs, similar or greater responses will be necessary this year.
Diligent summer work by Associate Provost Jen Pintar, academic deans and department chairpersons reduced the number of under-enrolled course offerings this Fall and resulted in several hundred thousand dollars in savings. There is significantly more work and opportunity within this area of effectiveness. These, along with other permanent cost containment ideas identified by colleges, may reduce the magnitude of possible retrenchment or non-renewals. Another potential means of permanent costs reduction is a second VSRP offering for faculty.
On Tuesday, September 13, YSU’s Office of Human Resources announced the release of the 2022 VSRP. At this time, it is not possible to know the extent of the outcome of the VSRP. Concerned faculty have asked me for some time whether their program might be subject to future retrenchment or non-renewals so they may consider important career choices regarding their future. These sorts of questions have been more frequent among faculty whose programs were evaluated in the “Adjust” category in the most recent Academic Program Enhancement and Effectiveness Initiative (APEEI).
College deans will be sharing with faculty the programs that have been identified in APEEI as “Adjust,” with subsequent discussions commencing by college as necessary. Generally, programs are candidates for possible retrenchment, non-renewals or closure when they share one or more of the following attributes:
- Low enrollment.
- Low enrollment, and the program is duplicated at nearby universities.
- Under-enrolled classes, especially those at the junior and senior levels.
- Falling enrollment and low student demand from the market.
- Low market growth potential.
- Poor mission fit with the department and college.
- Low student/faculty ratios (generally evidenced by low/under-enrolled classes).
Given this context, 11 departments are identified as areas for possible actions for retrenchment and/or non-renewal.
Appearing on this list does not necessarily mean entire departments will be impacted; rather, it is likely that areas within a department will be the focus, considering the extent to which they are aligned with the attributes listed above.
Retrenchment and/or non-renewal decisions will be influenced by the magnitude of the response to the VSRP as well as continued gains in efficiencies and effectiveness of academic offerings. If you have any questions regarding the VSRP, please contact the appropriate individuals listed in the package offering the VSRP.
Overall, as demographic challenges continue, the intent is to build the appropriate academic and organizational structures that recognize the needs of the workforce and community while at the same time continuing to achieve a sustainable and prosperous Youngstown State University.