Journal Opinion: They Were Warned

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – There is no getting around the notion that the officials responsible for overseeing Eastern Gateway Community College were asleep at the switch. 

Their incompetent oversight has put the very future of Eastern Gateway in peril as well as the future careers of thousands of students. 

The Eastern Gateway Board of Trustees, as well as state officials, had ample warning that the college was heading over the cliff, as reported by Denise Dick in her story posted Feb. 29.

The board’s vote Feb. 21 to “pause” enrollment and registration occurred 18 months after members of the college’s executive cabinet signed and sent a letter to trustees that detailed serious concerns about the college’s capacity to remain viable under its former president, Michael Geoghegan. Nevertheless, Geoghegan remained in charge until August 2023 and then became a college “transition team member” through December (and paid $20,000 per month).

In August 2022, these brave college administrators said they had no confidence in Geoghegan who also served as chief financial officer – a baffling circumstance and one of many red flags that should have been apparent to anyone paying attention. 

The administrators pointed to concerns over Geoghegan’s competence in academic accreditation and financial aid requirements as well as what they called his failure to plan how to serve students; his disparagement and disregard for the opinions, experience and knowledge of his leadership team; the potential for legal liability; his consistent suppression and hiding of information; and his lack of temperament, objectivity and empathy to successfully negotiate.

Most significant, they also pointed to problems with the Free College Benefit Program, which ended in August 2023, and the for-profit company the college partnered with to provide it, Student Resource Center.

These warnings were not delivered in a vacuum. The cabinet members copied their letter to the offices of the state attorney general and auditor, the Ohio Department of Higher Education, the Higher Learning Commission and the U.S. Department of Education, all of whom could – and should – have taken action earlier. 

Still, the buck stops with trustees. As a board, they should lose their seats, just like the students in Eastern Gateway’s classrooms.