YSU-OEA Releases Analysis of YSU’s Finances, Deems Cuts Unnecessary

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – An independent analysis of Youngstown State University’s finances, commissioned by the union representing YSU’s faculty, reportedly shows there is no need for further instructional cuts.

YSU-OEA commissioned an independent analysis of YSU’s finances by Dr. Howard Bunsis, a professor of accounting at Eastern Michigan University.

In an effort to push back against anticipated program and faculty cuts, Bunsis’ analysis has been
submitted to YSU’s Academic Senate ahead of their meeting today.

In response to the analysis, Mark Vopat, president of the YSU-OEA, said that further program closures and faculty terminations are not necessary.

“YSU is currently in good financial condition, with solid cash flows and reserves – approximately $90 million – modest debt levels, a stable bond rating, and increasing state support,” he said.

Last year, YSU closed programs and laid off faculty through retrenchments and non-renewals. In September of this year, 11 departments were put on notice by Provost Brien Smith that another round of program closures and faculty layoffs may be forthcoming.

“We are hearing from faculty on campus that some lecturers have been non-renewed this past week and that admission to some programs has been suspended,” said Cryshanna Jackson, YSU-OEA spokesperson. “So despite data showing that YSU is on solid financial footing, they are firing people and closing programs anyway.”

Through a combination of non-renewals, retrenchments, retirements without replacements, and voluntary separations, tenured and tenure-track faculty at YSU have declined about 30% over the last decade. “Enrollment during that time declined 19%,” Vopat observed. “So, faculty have already been reduced substantially.”

Bunsis’ financial analysis shows that instructional spending at YSU is budgeted to decline $3.8 million this coming year after declining $3.5 million in the current fiscal year.

“That’s $7.8 million less spent on instruction at YSU. That’s far more than needs to be cut from teaching and instruction,” Jackson said. “As we pointed out in our response to Smith’s op-ed in The Vindicator, we are streamlining courses and updating programs to protect YSU’s diverse programs and the bottom line. The faculty at YSU are dedicated to preserving the diverse programs that have helped our students and the community for over 100 years.”

The university and Smith stand by the recent op-ed in The Vindicator as the university’s communications director Ron Cole referred to the piece when contacted by The Business Journal for the university’s response. The op-ed cites changing and ongoing, extenuating circumstances as the reason for the university’s “proactive” approach to what Smith says is an indefensible attack.

“The flow of additional state dollars is at a trickle. Tuition is severely capped. Enrollment is steadily trending down. Students and parents are looking for programs that squarely focus on employability. Student debt has exploded,” he wrote. “The value of a degree is under attack. The landscape has changed drastically. For mid-sized public universities like YSU, the situation is untenable.”

The op-ed also states that decisions coming down the pike may not be “popular” with some faculty.

The union pointed out that money spent on upper-level institutional support has actually increased over the past few years, and other areas of the budget have not been as aggressively cut compared to instruction.

“We hope this analysis sparks conversation on campus and in the community about YSU’s misaligned budget priorities and whether the ongoing cuts to programs and faculty, instead of other areas of the budget, are really in YSU’s best interest,” Jackson said. “We think that Bunsis’ presentation points to the conclusion that YSU is cutting instruction first and foremost, when that is the last thing a university should be cutting.”

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.