YSU freezes tuition, authorizes student apartments, expands College Credit Plus

The Youngstown State University Board of Trustees approved a fiscal year 2016 budget that includes no tuition increase for undergraduate students, agreed to lease land for the construction of a 162-bed apartment-style student housing complex and voted to expand the College Credit Plus dual enrollment program into Pennsylvania.

Those were among the actions taken during the board’s regular quarterly meeting Wednesday afternoon.

The $176.9 million operating budget includes a freeze in undergraduate tuition for next academic year, assumes a 1 percent increase in enrollment and a 9 percent boost in state funding appropriations.

Full-time in-state undergraduate tuition will remain $4,043.64 per semester. The rate is the lowest among the state’s 11 largest public universities and $1,620 below the statewide average.

Tuition for out-of-state undergraduate students living in the 23-county Affordable Tuition Advantage area will remain at $4,163.64 per semester. The rate is well below tuition at competing universities in western Pennsylvania, including Edinboro, Slippery Rock, Clarion and Indiana.

Graduate tuition will increase 3.6 percent. The budget plan also calls for a 4 percent increase in room and board rates at the university’s residence halls.

Trustees also authorized the leasing 3.4 acres of university land along Fifth Avenue to Hallmark Campus Communities for the construction of a 162-bed student apartment complex.

Hallmark has developed student housing at universities across Ohio, including the University of Akron, University of Cincinnati, Kent State University and Ohio University.

The estimated project cost is $7.8 million and will be financed solely by the developer. The project is expected to be completed by Fall Semester 2016, which coincides with the university’s projection of increased demand for apartment style student housing.

Meanwhile, the board also agreed to pursue expanding College Credit Plus into the Keystone State. The program that allows school districts to offer college credit classes for high schools students has grown from 56 students to nearly 1,000 in the past decade.

Since several high schools across the state line have expressed interest in the program, YSU will now apply to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for permission to deliver the courses.

In other business, the board entered into an energy performance contract with Johnson Controls Inc. that is expected to cut utility costs by at least $2 million annually. The $16 million project will be funded with those savings through a financing package with PNC Equipment Finance.

The board also agreed to transfer $800,000 from its Restricted Discretionary Gift Fund to be used for improvements along Wick Avenue, one of the main entranceways to campus.

The university and the city of Youngstown are working in partnership to make significant improvements, including road resurfacing, sidewalk and curb replacement, lighting enhancements and moving utilities underground.

YSU has conceptually agreed to help finance work on approximately 0.75 miles of Wick Avenue adjacent to campus. The board’s Restricted Discretionary Gift Fund has a balance of $1 million, donated to the university last year by the late Dr. Maria A. Fok.

At the same meeting, the board agreed to name Alumni House on Wick Avenue as the Drs. Thomas and Maria M.L. Fok Hall. Dr. Thomas Fok held a doctorate degree in civil engineering and was an associate professor at Youngstown University from 1958 to 1967, at which time he established his own engineering firm, Thomas Fok and Associates. Dr. Maria M.L. Fok was a general practitioner medical doctor who practiced for more than 48 years.