Education

Eastern Gateway Community College Terminates Bruce

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio –The Eastern Gateway Community College Board of Trustees voted unanimously this morning to terminate the contract of Dr. Jimmie Bruce, president of the college since March 2015, “due to dereliction of duty and inappropriate management practices.”

The board resolution, distributed to reporters who had camped out for nearly three hours outside a closed meeting at the college’s main building in downtown Youngstown, said Bruce “has lost the confidence of the board of trustees.”

As such, the board authorized its chairman, James M. Gasior, president and CEO of Cortland Banks, “to take the necessary steps to terminate the contract in accordance with the terms of his employment contract.”

The board also resolved that Michael Geoghegan will continue to serve as interim president while a search is conducted for a new president.

Bruce and James Miller, vice president and chief of staff, were placed on administrative leave Jan. 7. Miller will remain on leave as the board reviews “questionable expense charges,” reporters were told.

“Today’s actions are regrettable, but necessary, to restore confidence in the leadership of Eastern Gateway Community College and to continue the growth we have seen, on campus and online,” said Gasior in a statement. “While we work to resolve the contractual aspects of the termination, we will begin the search for a new president. In the meantime, we are proud of our students, staff and faculty who have pressed ahead during this time of transition. We are eager to witness their successes during this new, record-setting enrollment semester.”

In his nearly four years at the helm of Eastern Gateway, enrollment has grown at an extremely rapid rate. In spring 2019, EGCC counted 5,500 Ohio residents as students and another 14,000 out-of-state students, mostly taking courses online.

The increase in out-of-state, online students brought complaints that Eastern Gateway was unfairly taking advantage of a pool of state funds set aside for community colleges. The issue was first reported last summer by a trade journal, which noted that online enrollment had quadrupled under Bruce, and attributed the huge gains to a “free college program Eastern Gateway created for members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.”

State officials took notice and summoned Bruce to testify before an Ohio Senate Finance Committee, where he stated that all of the $1 million EGCC received from the “State Share of Instruction” formula was used to expand programs and facilities at its campuses in Youngstown and Steubenville.

Still, the Ohio Legislature subsequently revised the funding formula and EGCC agreed to a transition period.

Gasior did not cite the issue among factors in the decision to terminate Bruce.

Eastern Gateway, formerly Jefferson Community College, is based in Steubenville.

It operates three buildings in downtown Youngstown: Thomas Humphries Hall, 101 E. Federal St.; its student services center, 139 E. Boardman St.; and the new health and workforce education center, 101 E. Boardman St.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We are continuing to cover this story and will have a comprehensive report Thursday morning.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.