New YSU president addresses concerns

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New Youngstown State University president Randy Dunn said he expects as much as a 5-percent enrollment decline when the university reports the fall 2013 enrollment numbers in two weeks.

Dunn said Monday at his first-ever State of the University address at YSU that the school could lose as much as $5 million more if enrollment declines to that degree. Dunn, however, said he has “aggressive” plans to help the school.

Dunn said YSU officials originally predicted a 1-percent decrease but now believe when the university reports its official enrollment on Sept. 4 it will be significantly less.

“The state of the university is challenged today, but it’s hopeful for the future,” Dunn said. “It’s probably no secret. We have much work to do going forward to make sure our ship is righted for the stormy waters in the future.”

He said no cuts or changes have been finalized but officials are exploring options depending on the official enrollment number.

Dunn said one of his main priorities is to make YSU a “destination” rather than just an open-access school that accepts all students. YSU is in the bottom 25 percent in graduation rates among the state’s 14 public universities.

Dunn said it would take six years to change the school’s graduation rates.

He said because graduation rates will be linked to state funding in the future, he wants the university to explore ways to be more selective in students they accept.

Dunn also said he will change the school’s marketing to emphasize YSU’s 3-D printing research, which is partnered with the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute located in Youngstown.

“We are going to become more edgy to attract students from all over the country,” Dunn said. “We want to be a university of destination. We want to be a university of place, which has been this university’s history, but we want to be a place of destination for hundreds and thousands of students.”

Dunn said YSU currently has a $1.9 million budget deficit before reduced enrollment figures are factored.

He also said three consecutive years of enrollment decline and state funding changes that have cut funding have caused a $16 million drop in revenue during the last few years.

“Over the next 18 months to two years, we have to stabilize and overcome structural imbalance that we’re living with currently,” Dunn said.

Dunn also touted the STEM program, the Beeghley College of Education— which was recently named as one of the top 40 education programs in the country, the Williamson College of Business Administration, all of which have partnerships with area businesses and programs.

“It’s not about a race we can’t win,” Dunn said. “People are attracted to quality. People will follow quality. Students across the country, we are going to pursue, international partners we are going to pursue, donors, elected officials, policy makers— people come to excellence.”

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