YOUNGSTOWN – Amid a series of long-term challenges facing Youngstown State University and many other four-year colleges, the university is forging ahead in building individual and collaborative success on many fronts, said its president.
“We must be aware of the challenges ahead of us. We have to use whatever is in the tool bag,” YSU President Jim Tressel said during his final State of the University presentation Wednesday at the Williamson College of Business Administration.
Among the elements of the toolkit are collaborative counseling and recruitment efforts, which have streamlined and simplified the application process for graduates and undergraduates to receive financial aid and acceptance packages. . The counseling piece is a platform to make mentoring readily available and other pressing student needs, Tressel explained.
Additionally, the freshman retention rate has increased from 64% a few years ago to 80%, which also bodes well for YSU’s revenue stream, he noted.
“Registration is the biggest driver of our revenue,” Tressel said.
Another significant area of growth has been YSU’s Honors College, which has grown from about 300 students eight years ago to about 1,280 today, he noted.
Success and growth have also been seen in the new Training Center of Excellence, which has partnered with America Makes, Youngstown Business Incubator and others to build a workforce stronger and more viable advanced manufacturing to meet the needs of businesses such as Ultium Cells in Lordstown. . About $600,000 in scholarships were awarded to those at ETC, Tressel added.
A study lasting more than a year has sought to determine what needs to be done about Kilcawley Center, part of which was built in 1964 and extended in 1971. The building should be replaced largely because it is obsolete , said Tressel. What is needed is a new student center “that meets the needs of today’s students, not the 1970s”, he added.
Another campus upgrade was the Watson Team Center, which is expected to house nine engineering teams and provide additional space for students to work together on various projects, Tressel said.
The university was also successful in receiving a Collegiate Purple Star Award for supporting students with military backgrounds, in addition to receiving a five-star rating in Changing Campus Culture, an effort in partnership with the Department of Ohio Education to Combat Sexual Violence. Additionally, YSU earned a perfect four-star rating for its adherence to the state’s open meeting law, Tressel continued.
YSU continues to be proactive in community engagement as it tries to attract more students beyond the Mahoning Valley, including international students. In these efforts, YSU ranked at the top of Ohio’s 14 state universities, he noted.
Additionally, four key efforts are being developed to address online threats such as ransomware. Among them are reducing threats from stolen passwords and usernames, as well as enforcing YSU’s “acceptable use” policy by migrating all faculty, the staff, administrators and contractors to a secure messaging system for the conduct of academic business, Tressel explained. The latter should be ready by May 2023, he added.
Another success was Penguin Pass, which is essentially a visual checklist making it easier for students to see what they need to graduate, he continued.
Among the faculty highlights were Kristin Bruns, who received a grant to re-engage students in wellness; Amy Weaver, who was Professor Patricia M. Sweeney’s first honoree in nursing; and Nancy Landgraff, second recipient of the James P. Tressel Endowed Chair in Leadership.
Tressel also cited a study related to the projected growth in the number of students expected to attend a four-year university between 2012 and 2029. Even though YSU is in a demographic region that is expected to see a decline of up to 15%. plans are in place to thwart that possibility through increased recruiting, marketing and online efforts, he said.
Tressel, who became university president in 2014, is stepping down in February 2023. Nonetheless, he plans to remain active in university affairs, he said.