State Auditor Seeks Information About Eastern Gateway
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Auditor of State’s Special Investigations Unit is seeking information on potential fraud, waste and abuse of public resources at Eastern Gateway Community College.
The SIU recently established a dedicated email address, SIUEGCC@ohioauditor.gov, for tips from anyone who suspects wrongdoing. Individuals also can submit information confidentially through SIU’s website or the Auditor of State’s Fraud Hotline, 866 372 8364.
On Jan. 4, the SIU, along with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Computer Crimes Unit, the U.S. Secret Service, the Columbus Division of Police’s Digital Forensics Unit and the Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center, executed a search warrant related to ongoing investigations concerning Eastern Gateway.
Since 2019, the SIU has assisted in 117 convictions resulting in more than $8.2 million in restitution. The team receives hundreds of tips of suspected fraud annually.
Eastern Gateway has struggled with myriad challenges the past few years.
Earlier this month, the college announced more than $1 million in staff cuts, which followed about $4 million in cost reductions earlier in the year.
The U.S. Department of Education placed Eastern Gateway on Heightened Cash Monitoring 2 status in August 2022, meaning the college must use its own resources to credit student accounts and then wait for federal student aid reimbursements from USDOE.
In July, the college announced the program would end after the fall 2023 semester. In 2022, the U.S. Department of Education ordered the college to stop the program as part of a federal financial aid program review.
The education department alleged that the college was charging students who received Pell grants more than those who didn’t.
Eastern Gateway enrollment swelled to about 40,000 during the free college program, up from about 5,000 students just a few years before.
The college also has been on probation since November 2021 with the Higher Learning Commission. The HLC extended probation at least until this November, citing in part its financial issues.
And in December, the Ohio Controlling Board approved a more than $6 million advance to Eastern Gateway to ensure adequate cash flow.
The chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education distributes payments and subsidies to colleges and universities for “exceptional circumstances” with Controlling Board approval.
The $6 million amounts to a three-month advance in state share of instruction. The college had requested a six-month advance, or $12 million.
Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.