YSU Spring Enrollment Increases from Last Year

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Youngstown State University spring enrollment is up by more than 200 students, bolstered by record enrollment in the graduate college, while undergraduate enrollment slipped by more than 100 compared with a year ago.

The numbers are preliminary for the 14th day of the new semester, which started Jan. 8.

Based on headcount, the overall spring enrollment is 10,580, up from 10,368 in spring 2023, according to numbers released Monday by the university. 

For undergraduates, the spring 2024 enrollment is 8,051, down from 8,160 in spring 2023. Graduate enrollment, 2,529, set a record. Last spring that number was 2,208.

“I think one thing that’s clear is that our online graduate programs are finding an audience for which their career trajectory needs are being met,” said Mike Sherman, YSU vice president of student affairs, institutional effectiveness and board professional. “That’s important in ascribing the value of the educational experience at Youngstown State University.”

He also pointed to YSU admitting more international students this spring and in spring 2023.

The number of international students reached 1,007 for spring 2024, up from 668 and 375 in spring 2023 and spring 2022, respectively.

“That’s linked to the international student enrollment and success strategy that we implemented several years ago,” Sherman said. “That aligns with the objectives of the institution to create an environment that is multicultural and respectful.”

University marketing also played a role, he said.

“The deans and the office of academic affairs have been working very proactively with our marketing area to better express the Know Y,” Sherman said of the university rebranding unveiled this fall. “I think perhaps the Know Y rebrand is contributing to this a little bit. We’re expecting to take advantage of that to a new extreme going into the future.”

The university is going to look at enrollment from a multifaceted perspective where every office understands and sees how each of its actions has a compounding effect as it relates to enrollment, he said.

Kent State University also saw an enrollment increase this spring.

KSU’s enrollment for spring 2024 is 31,219, up from 30,588 last spring, according to that university. The number includes 25,640 undergraduate and 5,579 graduate students. In spring 2023, KSU had 25,272 undergraduate and 5,316 graduate students. 

In an email, Eric Mansfield, KSU assistant vice president, content strategy & communications and university spokesman, attributed the increase to “strong growth in our business and engineering programs as we’re seeing more students pursue those careers.”

Across the country, higher learning institutions grapple with how to boost enrollment as the college-age demographic declines and concerns about student debt and the value of higher education loom.

In May 2023, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that college enrollment for 18- to 24-year-olds dropped from 41% in 2010 to 38% in 2021. And the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that post-secondary enrollment is down more than 1 million students compared with spring 2020.

At YSU, the number of readmitted students has been increasing for the past several years in both the fall and spring, Sherman said. 

This semester, that number is 86 undergraduates. In spring 2023, it was 93 undergraduates, and in spring 2022, it was 90 undergraduates.

“That’s due to a very purposeful outreach to individuals who have stopped out, and we’ve been very purposefully reaching out to individuals and attempting to help them map a course to degree completion,” he said.

That’s an effort, coupled with debt relief, on which the university started to focus about a year and a half ago, said Jeanne Herman, associate vice president of institutional effectiveness.

“What we started doing in the registrar’s office is, when students became readmitted, the Penguin Service Center started reaching out to them immediately to see if they had a curriculum plan, what their major was – instead of just having them get readmitted and get lost all over again,” Herman said. “I think that has definitely contributed.”

The Penguin Service Center offers assistance to help reacclimate them to the university. It determines if students want to keep the same major, if they want to see an adviser and if they need help with a bill, for example.

The center also works on financial literacy with students. For readmitted students, that work includes explaining payment options such as payment plans and financial aid.

Part of the YSU debt relief program involves reaching out to students who have some debt and offering some relief if they come back and successfully complete a term, Herman said.

For those who have left YSU without a degree, the university is looking at the courses they’ve taken, the degree they were pursuing and what courses they need to earn a degree. They also determine if the courses a student has already taken might contribute to a different degree.

“And then having done that analysis, reaching out to them and saying, ‘By the way, we understand you stopped out, but we want to make sure you understand that there’s a path for you to complete,’” he said. 

The university representative lays out the options for the student.

“What do we need to do to support you re-enrolling so that you can complete this degree?” Sherman said. “I think we’re going to be more purposefully focused on, ‘Here’s your pathway,’ as opposed to, ‘Hey, you want to come back?’”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.