Eastern Gateway Plans Summer Classes Before Dissolution

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Eastern Gateway Community College will offer a limited number of classes over the summer and push the start of dissolution to Oct. 31.

By offering classes over the summer, the college will be eligible for fiscal year 2025 state share of instruction money, James Gasior, board chairman, told trustees at the board’s regular meeting Wednesday.

By providing the limited number of courses, Eastern Gateway will “provide students with the opportunity to graduate and move closer to their educational goals,” Gasior said.

Summer classes will begin the first week in June and wrap up in late July or early August. Eastern Gateway’s main campus is in Steubenville, and it operates a campus in downtown Youngstown.

“Some of our students are just one class away from graduating,” Art Daly, college senior vice president and chief development officer, said after the meeting. “This could allow them to not have to finish at another institution.”

After voting in February to pause enrollment and registration after this spring semester, trustees voted in March to begin dissolution of the college June 30 unless it received an influx of additional sufficient funds.

Youngstown State University issued a news release Wednesday afternoon reaffirming its “unwavering commitment” to providing a pathway for Eastern Gateway students to continue their education at YSU.

“As we continue to engage in constructive dialogue with EGCC and local stakeholders, our commitment to providing accessible and high-quality educational opportunities remains steadfast,” YSU President Bill Johnson said in the release. “Today’s EGCC board meeting further emphasizes the importance of our collaborative efforts in supporting students’ educational journeys.” 

To that end, YSU added more than 50 certificate and associate degree programs to meet the educational needs of students in the region.

The YSU Academic Senate also approved policy changes that “for two semesters removed barriers, including adjusting GPA admissions requirements, eliminating the residency requirement and creating a GPA recalculation option for students who had previously attended YSU,” the release said.

The release said that as a result of the changes, YSU has received more than 1,200 applications from Eastern Gateway students, with more than 600 students admitted and over 100 registered for each of the upcoming summer and fall terms. 

“YSU also remains committed to maintaining cost equivalency for credit hours, ensuring that EGCC Associate’s degree-seeking students transferring to YSU will experience minimal financial impact,” it says.

Jennifer Pintar, YSU interim provost, pointed to the hard work of the faculty, academic leadership and the leadership of the Academic Senate in making the changes to smooth the transition for Eastern Gateway students transferring to YSU. 

Vote to Sell Building

Eastern Gateway trustees also voted to sell the Pugliese Center and its assets, one of the buildings at the main campus in Steubenville, to Steubenville City Schools. Discussions, including the cost, continue between the college and the school district.

The Jefferson County Auditor’s office website lists the total market value of the property at about $2 million.

D’Anniballe Hall is the main building at the campus and houses classrooms. A third building there is owned by another company.

YSU has said it intends to have a campus in Steubenville to serve the educational needs of that community. It hasn’t identified a location.

At the Eastern Gateway trustees meeting Wednesday, Mike Sherman, YSU vice president, institutional effectiveness and board professional, told the board YSU has had to maintain separation in setting up programs to serve students.

“We also have had to be very careful with regards to how we formally indicate where and in what way we would have a presence in Jefferson County,” Sherman said. “It’s very clear that President Johnson and the board supports that we will have a location in Jefferson County. That location has yet to be determined.”

Facing Challenges

Eastern Gateway has faced a series of challenges over the past few years linked to its free college benefit program. That program offered free college to union members through a contract with an outside provider. Enrollment grew to more than 40,000 students from across the country, most of whom attended online classes. Enrollment before the program was about 4,000.

In November 2021, the Higher Learning Commission, an accrediting body, placed the college on probation, citing multiple issues. The commission kept that designation in place in November 2023. 

In August 2022, the U.S. Department of Education placed Eastern Gateway on Heightened Cash Monitoring 2, meaning the college had to use its own resources to credit student accounts and wait for federal student aid reimbursements from the federal department. 

Also in 2022, the U.S. Department of Education ordered the college to end the free college program, saying Eastern Gateway was charging students who received Pell grants more than those who didn’t.

The college sued the department. The two sides settled the case in August 2023, and the free college program ended and enrollment dropped.

The college received advancement of state subsidies in August and December 2023, as well as this March, to help fund its operations including to meet payroll.

On March 8, Ohio Chancellor Mike Duffey declared Eastern Gateway to be on fiscal watch, citing its advance of state subsidy, failure to make any payments to vendors, its heightened cash monitoring status with the U.S. Department of Education and its projected deficit.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.