EGCC Temporarily Suspends Enrollments in Free College Program

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio—Eastern Gateway Community College has temporarily suspended new enrollments in its Free College Benefit program for the fall semester, after a meeting between the college and the U.S. Department of Education was postponed.

The announcement comes just two days after the college said it was given the go ahead by the DOE to continue the program.

A scheduled meeting between the parties was postponed because the DOE requested additional time to respond to questions the college had submitted earlier Wednesday.

“We understand that this is a frustrating change of direction for our students, our staff, and the EGCC community,” said Eastern Gateway President Michael Geoghegan. “However, we know with certainty that this path will align with the most conservative elements of guidance received to date from DOE, and therefore it will avoid further scrutiny or potential misinterpretation while DOE works to provide us with answers,” he said. “This serves to preserve the integrity of the college and leave zero doubt as to whether we are being compliant with DOE’s current directives.”

Last week, the Department of Education issued a cease and desist directive that prohibited EGCC from distributing Pell grant funding under the Free College Benefit program. The DOE cited concerns related to EGCC’s program as part of a federal financial aid review.

Then on Tuesday, EGCC announced that it appeared to have resolved these issues after a productive phone conversation between Geoghegan and the DOE. At that time, it was reported by the college that the DOE had given approval to continue the free tuition program.

“After thorough discussion with college legal counsel and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the college has concluded that it is in the best interest of Eastern Gateway to move forward only by exercising an abundance of caution,” the college said in a statement. “As such, and until EGCC receives the responses from DOE, the college is temporarily suspending new enrollments in the Free College Benefit for Fall 2022.”

EGCC students who have enrolled for fall 2022 courses on or before July 18, 2022, will be able to attend in the fall and use Title IV aid and/or the Free College Benefit.

Students who enrolled for fall 2022 courses on or after July 19, 2022, at this time are not eligible for the Free College Benefit and may not utilize Title IV aid. The college is diligently working on an alternative funding plan for these students before the fall start.

The college said it would continue to work with DOE regarding all changes they seek for the Free College Benefit Program and will vigorously pursue prompt guidance to move forward quickly and compliantly.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.