Growing ‘Crash Day’ Means More Students for YSU

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – With about 400 high school students lining up inside the Watson and Tressel Training Site, Gary Swegan made a mental note of just how far the event has come since it started in 2011 and what it means for Youngstown State University.

“When this started, and this is back before I got here, there were a variety of things we did and over time we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work so well,” said Swegan, YSU’s associate vice president of enrollment planning and management. “At this point, we’ve got a pretty well oiled machined.”

About 300 high school students preregistered for Crash Day and Swegan expected about a hundred more to sign up at the event.

The same number of people, he noted, attended the first Crash Day, before he began at YSU. At the Crash Day in November, a record 1,400 students toured the campus. Typically, the fall Crash Days have a higher attendance than those in the spring semester.

Two-thirds of the students who come to the event, whether high school juniors or seniors, eventually enroll at YSU, Swegan added. And with enrollment at the university increasing for the first time since 2011 this semester, Crash Day has almost certainly played a role in the growth.

“Although we have other on-campus visit opportunities that can be more college-oriented, this is our showcase event,” Swegan said. “The beauty is that as we’ve grown, we’ve been able to bring in more students to show what we offer.”

YSU President Jim Tressel added after the introductory session that the key part of Crash Day is just getting people on campus.

“Any time we can get someone to visit, it’s to our advantage. The more people who see Youngstown State, the more they want to be involved,” he said. “You can’t make [growth] happen without people coming to see us and meeting our faculty, staff and students.”

Several students attending the event noted that the increased enrollment – 12,361 students this semester –changed how they thought about the university and made it a little more attractive, but for most it was a nonfactor.

“It’s not a factor as of yet. We really want to look at some the teacher-to-student ratios, which will be a big thing,” said Toby Wiggins, whose son Malcolm was touring the school. “Coming from a small town like Zanesville, we want to make sure he’s still going to feel like he’s part of a small community.”

Malcolm, a senior at West Muskingum High School, is considering studying engineering and had a keen interest in the athletics programs at YSU, both of which grabbed his attention when he was scouting schools.

“The engineering school is supposed to be one of the best in the area. And outside of that, it’s mostly been about the football team,” he said. “I’m an athletic person and I want to be a part of that. All the sports teams here are competitive and good at what they do.”

It’s no surprise then that Malcolm was intrigued by Tressel’s arrival at YSU.

“Jim Tressel being here is definitely a marker that makes this a go-to place. It draws in more people and makes them want to come here,” he said, before giving a “Go Penguins!” shout.

Many students, it appeared, were from outside YSU’s traditional five-county base – Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana in Ohio, along with Mercer and Lawrence counties in Pennsylvania. Since arriving at YSU, Swegan’s goal has been to expand the school’s footprint and take its message to students outside the local market.

This year, freshman at YSU came from 54 counties, up from 37 just two years ago. Already this year, he added, YSU has admitted students from 77 Ohio counties.

In addition, YSU’s out-of-state student numbers rose 64% from the 2015-16 school year, he said.

And it’s events like Crash Day that can be a boon for the school. At November’s event, the 1,400 students came from 200 high schools in eight states. Most students Monday morning were from Ohio or bordering counties in Pennsylvania.

“I haven’t heard much about YSU because I don’t live in the area. But I know my cousin liked it and that’s where my perspective comes from,” said James Kretzler from Butler Area High School. “But this brings a lot of people in, which gives the school a chance to grow.”

For Kretzler’s mother, Angela, Crash Day was a chance to learn as much as she could about YSU in a short period of time. With tours of the buildings her son would be frequenting, meetings with student groups and faculty in his college, it’s a better opportunity than just reading online.

“We’re trying to get a feel for it and see how it goes,” she said. “It makes it a little bit easier. We want to check out these programs and see what they’re all about.”




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