Can Youngstown State be master of its own destiny?



When Youngstown State University President David Sweet met with The Vindicator's editorial board last week to discuss the Ohio Board of Regents' 2006 Performance Report for Ohio's Colleges and Universities, we were expecting him to brag -- his word -- about how well YSU fared. That he did.
But Sweet also said a couple of other things that gave us pause and prompted the headline, "Can Youngstown State be master of its own destiny?" The reason we ask the question is because decisions are being made in Columbus that, if carried out, will impact higher education in Ohio.
And in contemplating that impact, we wonder how YSU will fare. It isn't idle curiosity.
Sweet offers the following assessment: first, the status of the chancellor will change and the individual will become a member of the governor's cabinet, rather than remain an employee of the board of regents; second, the Northeast Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Rootstown will cease to be an independent medical school.
If the president is right, then the future of YSU certainly becomes an issue. After all, at the heart of the debate on higher education that has been raging in the Ohio General Assembly is the level of state financial support. The higher ed community contends that the Legislature isn't providing enough money for the public colleges and universities and points to Ohio's low standing compared with other states.
Community colleges
Legislators, led by Republican leaders in the House and Senate, counter that money is being wasted through such things as duplication of degree programs and irrelevant course offerings. Some Republicans have even questioned the need for so many four-year institutions and are pushing the idea that two-year community colleges are needed to prepare Ohioans for the workplace.
As the debate rages, the future of YSU must become a topic of discussion for area officeholders, business, labor and community leaders and individuals on campus.
Sweet insists that the latest performance report from the board of regents shows that Youngstown State, as an open admissions, urban institution, not only can justify its existence, but should be a model for other colleges and universities. Its low tuition, small class size, above-average retention rates and an enrollment growth that is faster than the average main campus university do justify the president's bragging.
But given the two issues Sweet broached with The Vindicator's editorial board -- the change in status of the chancellor and the reorganization of NEOUCOM -- it would be risky to take anything for granted with regard to YSU's future.
A meeting of the minds -- area congressmen Tim Ryan and Charlie Wilson should be included -- would go a long way toward formulating a response to what is taking place in Columbus and bringing all the forces of this region to bear on behalf of YSU.

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