Eastern Gateway, Covelli Enterprises Partner on Free College Benefits

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio –Eastern Gateway Community College and Warren-based Covelli Enterprises todday announced an agreement to offer free college benefits to nearly 6,000 Ohio-based Panera Bread employees and their families.

“This is an incredible opportunity for our team members and their families to earn college credit with no out-of-pocket costs,” said Sam Covelli, CEO of Covelli Enterprises. “Without the traditional barriers of scheduling and cost, employees will have the tools and flexibility they need to fit college into their lives.”

The benefit began this semester, and many students have already taken advantage of it, according to the announcement. Programs are available in-class and online.

Eligibility will be determined by Covelli Enterprises but will initially be offered to employees currently in good standing. Employees will be able to enroll in any online program offered by Eastern Gateway. 

Panera Bread employees will be required to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine Pell Grant eligibility and complete an application. For the students’ costs not covered by federal grants, Eastern Gateway will provide a last-dollar scholarship that covers the remaining costs. Students may be responsible for some supplies and fees, such as lab costs.

“This partnership exemplifies the two core functions a community college serves, to demonstrate economic value to our region and to provide opportunity for academic achievement to working people,” said Eastern Gateway President Michael Geoghegan. “Covelli Enterprises is a pillar in the Mahoning Valley business community, and we are proud to partner with them to create opportunity and change lives among those who work for Panera Bread.”

Eastern Gateway has offered free college benefits to working families – in Ohio and across the country – since 2015. In 2020, the college launched the Gateway Guarantee, which provides no-cost education to residents of Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana and Jefferson counties. To date, more than 100,000 students have taken advantage of Eastern Gateway’s free college benefit.

Panera Bread employees interested in taking advantage of the program can learn more at freecollegeopportunity.org, by emailing online@freecollegebenefit.org or by calling 888 590 9009.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.