Education

YSU to Begin Public Phase of $100M Campaign

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Youngstown State University will formally announce the public phase of its $100 million capital campaign in October, President James P. Tressel said Monday in his annual state of the university address.

With $50 million raised or pledged, the university is wrapping up the private or quiet phase of the campaign, Tressel said, and he expects the public phase to last as long as the quiet phase, three years.

The monies raised will be used to fund all aspects of running the university, he told reporters in a meeting afterward, from providing more scholarships to expanding faculty research, from endowing academic chairs to strengthening enrollment retention efforts.

The actual announcement of the public phase will take place Oct. 26, during homecoming weekend, spokesman Ron Cole said following Tressel’s remarks.

In his address, Tressel reviewed the achievements of the past year — academic and financial — before turning his focus to efforts to reach the goals set forth in the 2020 strategic plan.

The freshmen who begin classes Wednesday have the highest GPA and highest ACT scores in the history of YSU, Tressel reported, 3.3 and 21.78. Goals for next year’s entering freshmen are an average GPA of 3.4 and an ACT score of 22.

These metrics, his PowerPoint presentation showed, have steadily risen since the class who entered in 2010 with an average GPA of 2.81 and an average ACT of 19.75. Last year’s entering freshmen had an average GPA of 3.24 and an ACT of 21.77.

“We have a more prepared student body come in every year,” Tressel boasted.

The honors college has demonstrated an even more striking improvement, Tressel said, with 920 enrolled this academic year, up from 357 in 2010-11 and 438 in 2015-16. The number last year was 710 and the goal is to reach 1,200, he said.

Helping boost enrollment are 456 students from abroad, “nearly 200 new, international students, the largest in YSU history,” Tressel said, up from 275 last year.

The retention rate has steadily risen since 2010, when it was 66.60%, to 74.74% last year. The goal is 80%, Tressel said. Preliminary data suggest this year’s figure will be 74.9% when the 14-day enrollment report is released next month.

The number of YSU students who graduated last year was the second-highest in university history, 2,334. Only in 1983, six years after the steel industry began its retrenchment in the Mahoning Valley, did more graduate.

In addition, YSU has returned to an upward path in securing private-sector and government grants, the president reported. The 2010-11 school year saw $8.68 million in grants, which fell to $3.55 million in 2012-13 before rebounding to $7.21 million the following year, then plunging to $4.6 million in 2014-15. In 2016-17, the figure slightly surpassed the 2010-11 figure, reaching $8.79 million.

YSU is financially healthier — “We’re fiscally strong,” Tressel stated — achieving a surplus of $1.2 million between income and expenditures after six consecutive years of increasing deficits. University staff “gave me a light switch,” he remarked, because “I turn a light off if I see an office with nobody inside of it.” His goal of frugality extends to “not wasting as much as a paperclip.”

Under the benchmarks set under Ohio Senate Bill 6, YSU ranks sixth in accountability and sustainability among the 14 public universities in the Buckeye State with a score of 3.5 on a five-point scale. (Ohio State is highest at 4.5; average score is 3.4.) “We’re going for the top third,” Tressel said.

When Tressel returned to Youngstown as president of the university, he adopted a motto in Latin, “Macte Vitute,” which he translates as “Increase the excellence.”

“You know I like my Latin even though I didn’t take one day of Latin,” he told his audience. Ergo, he has adopted another motto on Latin, “Virtus tentamine gaudet,” or “Strength rejoices in the challenge.”

And Youngstown State faces many challenges. Overcoming them, he said, requires the university community coming together, working closely with each other, respecting all stakeholders, being open to new ideas, and sustaining an environment of opportunity and success.

“This is a place of opportunity,” Tressel declared. “This is a place for success [where] we must create a thriving culture of community.

To that end, he introduced the acronym RISE: respect, inclusion, (school) spirit and excellence through engagement. He wants students, staff and faculty to “open our minds, open our doors and hearts” to one another.

The audience accorded him a standing ovation as he concluded his 40-minute presentation as he always does, ”Go Penguins.”

The president of the union that represents the 400 full-time faculty, economics professor A.J. Sumell, praised Tressel’s address. “He gave a great speech,” Sumell said. “He set an optimistic tone. He pointed to things that are moving forward.”

Both Tressel and Sumell cited the “news blackout” — their words — as negotiations continue between the university and the YSU chapter of the Ohio Education Association to reach a new collective bargaining agreement.

While he has not participated in or been present at any of the bargaining sessions, Tressel expressed optimism that a new contract will be reached and a strike avoided.

The OEA is scheduled to vote today on whether to authorize its leadership to call a strike should the bargaining teams fail to reach that contract.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.