Eastern Gateway Faculty Members Want Answers

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Eastern Gateway Community College trustees’ decision to pause enrollment and registration beyond the current semester has some faculty members concerned and angry about the future for their colleagues and their students.

“I am furious,” said Kathleen Rogers, program administrator for the associate of nursing degree program at the college. 

She learned about the pause, approved by college trustees at a special meeting Wednesday afternoon, when the news broke. She believes it should have been delivered to students, faculty and staff before that.

Not all programs can just pause, she said. Nursing students go through clinical sessions at hospitals and other health care facilities as part of the program curriculum.

“We have to plan months ahead for clinical placements,” Rogers said. “And we have two campuses. It’s not like we can just drop everything. … It doesn’t work that way.”

By not allowing students to complete the requirements during the summer, it puts their degree completion behind by at least a semester, she said.

“It’s not fair to them,” Rogers said.

She’s referring students who ask her about what the pause means to the website and the frequently asked questions sent out Wednesday night, but they’re upset.

John Crooks, interim college president, sent an email to employees Thursday morning.

“I know these are uncertain times for our faculty and staff at Eastern Gateway,” Crooks wrote. “And I appreciate your hard work and your dedication and your willingness to continue to provide a quality educational opportunity for our students during this past year.”

He said the college is working with the Ohio Department of Education to preserve the college and to help faculty and staff. 

“I wish I had more information to share with you,” Crooks said in the email. “I will tell you that I have as many questions as you have and I’m working to get answers for all of us. This is very difficult for all of us because we are a family at Eastern Gateway and we care about each other deeply. We want you to know we are doing everything we can to address any outstanding issues because we believe Eastern Gateway should at some point in the future register and enroll students.”

Elizabeth Zoccole, a full-time Eastern Gateway faculty member in the criminal justice department, said it was nice to get an email from the interim president, but it doesn’t answer most faculty members’ questions.

She wasn’t happy to learn about the pause on the news and believes it should have been communicated to campus by the college first.

“It’s affecting more than 9,000 students, and they are saying they can go elsewhere,” Zoccole said.

She said she, other faculty members and staff want answers.

“Who mismanaged the funds and who will be held accountable?” Zoccole said.

Youngstown State University and community colleges throughout the region will accept Eastern Gateway students to continue their programs of study, according to a joint news release from Eastern Gateway, YSU and the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

Eastern Gateway said the pause will provide an opportunity for the college to evaluate options as a result of ongoing financial difficulties partly due to delayed federal funding.

The Ohio Department of Higher Education will coordinate with the Higher Learning Commission, the U.S. Department of Education and other academic and regulatory bodies as necessary on the implementation of the arrangement, with planned approval for YSU to offer in-person classes in Steubenville for the benefit of Jefferson County, according to the news release.

The Ohio Department of Higher Education has established a website and dedicated email address to answer questions posed by students, faculty and staff.

Zoccole said it’s difficult to get answers from college administrators.

Rogers says those in her program are good students, and what’s happening isn’t fair to them. She’s not going to wait to find out what’s happening with her position. She has a family and a mortgage, so she’s going to look for another job.

The students in the nursing program do well, and there’s a high passage rate for those who graduate and take the nursing board examinations.

“We’re preparing our students,” Rogers said.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.