Education

EGCC President Holds Class at Youngstown Rotary

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Jimmie Bruce, president of Eastern Gateway Community College, wants the public to know that his institution is more than just a technical school, a message that often gets lost, he says.

As the featured speaker at the Rotary Club of Youngstown’s weekly meeting at the Central YMCA, Bruce addressed the college’s offerings and its physical growth.

The community college, known as Jefferson Community College before expanding in 2009 to serve students in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, has more than 8,600 students enrolled, up slightly from fall semester, said Bruce, who has been president since 2015. That includes 3,000 students split about evenly between the two physical campuses in Youngstown and Steubenville, along with more than 5,000 students who take courses online.

Eastern Gateway’s offerings here include several programs in the health-care field, as well as a welding program “we’re very proud of” and advanced manufacturing and machining courses that can lead to either certificates or credits toward a four-year degree in engineering.

In addition to the technical offerings that represent the majority of Eastern Gateway’s 35 programs, the community college offers classes that can go toward coursework at a four-year institution, as credits can transfer to any public university in Ohio, including Youngstown State University.

“I’d like to make sure that people understand that we are not just a technical school. We’re not just a nursing school. We’re not just a welding school,” Bruce said. “We offer the same courses that people take their first two years at a university. Sometimes that message gets lost.”

Eastern Gateway is an open access institution, requiring students to only have a high school diploma or General Educational Development, or GED, certificate for admission, he said.

Some students aren’t ready to make the leap right away to a four-year university, said Youngstown Campus dean Art Daly, and Eastern Gateway’s affordability is helping to fuel growth at the community college.

In addition to the average full-time tuition of $3,500 coming in at $1,000 less than the statewide average, students in Mahoning, Trumbull or Columbiana counties who graduate with a grade point average of 2.5 or better are eligible for the Gateway Grant. The grant covers tuition if they enroll their first semester after graduating high school. Those students then only have to cover books and fees, Bruce said.

Eastern Gateway is also working with high schools to offer college-level courses, allowing students to get both high school and college credit for coursework at the same time at no cost.

“We actually have three students from Steubenville High School in Jefferson County who are going to graduate this May with an associate’s degree,” he said.

Online offerings have been “a big focus” in recent years, he said. The community college now offers seven degree and two certificate programs entirely online, with five more in development.

Eastern Gateway’s Youngstown Campus is preparing to undergo further physical expansion. With classrooms on the first floor of the former Plaza Place parking deck downtown and a student services center nearby, Eastern Gateway is partnering with the Western Reserve Port Authority to move into the former Harshman Building.

The port authority is currently accepting bids to renovate the space for Eastern Gateway. The renovation will give the community college an additional five classrooms and up to seven offices, as well as needed student space. If all goes as planned, the space will be open in time for fall semester.

“We’re going to try to brand that with the port authority and others as the Mahoning Valley Community Health Care Training Center,” he said. Plans are to house a surgical assistant program in the building as well as expand the medical assisting program.

“We’re looking at pharmacy tech and phlebotomy as noncredit programs” as well, he added

In the main building, plans call for the bookstore – which is operated by Barnes & Noble – to be renovated and expanded, taking up at least part of the space left vacant by the closing of Los Gallos in 2014. The bookstore will have its own Starbucks café, similar to the YSU bookstore, which is also operated by Barnes & Noble.

“We’re hoping to create another opportunity for folks to come to campus and get some coffee and see all the wonderful things that are going on,” Bruce said. The remaining space would be used for either a meeting room or student space.

Students now have little option other than to hang out in the main corridor of the building that houses the parking deck and main classroom space.

As for the future, Bruce didn’t rule out further physical expansion of the campus.

“I hope so. I’m being optimistic,” he said. That expansion could take the form of a site in the Boardman-Canfield area or returning to Trumbull County, where it closed its Warren Campus last year, he said.

Changes in higher education tying funding to graduation rates and the need for faculty to do research have left an audience that YSU can no longer serve, providing a niche for Eastern Gateway, said Barbara Brothers, retired English professor and dean at YSU. The community college also provides an educational option for people with different training needs beyond high school

“We don’t need everybody to have a four-year degree,” she said.

Pictured: Eastern Gateway Community College President Jimmie Bruce spoke to the Rotary Club of Youngstown Wednesday. With him is chapter president Frank Kishel.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.