Tressel: Direct Relation Between YSU’s Graduation Rates And Financial Troubles

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Friday was the first day on the job for acting Youngstown State University president Jim Tressel. He takes over a school struggling with declining graduation rates, and a nearly $10 million budget shortfall.

Fourteen years after he was a winning coach there, Jim Tressel is back at Youngstown State.

Tressel led the Penguins to four national titles before heading to Columbus, where he became the third winningest coach in Buckeye history. Tressel left OSU in 2011 following a scandal involving players trading football paraphernalia for tattoos.

He spent two years as a top administrator at the University of Akron, and Friday took over the top job at YSU.

“It’s an exciting moment, Youngstown State means a lot to myself and my family," Tressel said.

Tressel inherits steep challenges at Youngstown State, especially in turning around declining enrollment, retention, and graduation rates. He said a campus-wide focus on personally connecting with students is the first step in reversing those trends.

“We have to totally believe that it is all of job to increase retention and then graduation rate,” Tressel said.

Tressel sees a direct link between improving student retention rates and solving the school’s financial troubles.

“If our graduation rate became better, I think we would find our budget would take care of itself,” he said.

Tressel is not only starting his job as president 10 days early, he’s hitting the ground running as a massively popular figure in the Mahoning Valley.

“It is a little bit of an advantage as I come back to the university," Tressel said. "I’ve got a lot of relationships already.”

Tressel felt a base pay of $300,000 was adequate for the job as president of Youngstown State University – that’s $75,000 less than he was offered. He officially takes over July 1.