YSU Moves Forward to Serve Eastern Gateway Students

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The Youngstown State University trustees took another step toward ensuring the educational needs of students formerly served by Eastern Gateway Community College will continue to be met.

A resolution approved Thursday by the trustees’ governance committee authorizes the provost to take actions to establish or transition relevant academic programs.

Mike Sherman, vice president of student affairs, institutional effectiveness and board professional, said the action comes after discussions with state and federal officials to ensure the new and expanded programs formerly offered by EGCC and planned for YSU would not make the latter liable for the former’s debts.

In January, YSU officials met virtually with the chief of staff and the counsel on policy of the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

They “made it very clear that from a federal regulation perspective that we needed to approach this whole endeavor as if we were standing it up on our own,” Sherman said. 

YSU needed to pursue the objectives aligned with its mission and consistent with its intent to serve the region, he said.

“That kind of firewall, if you will, that basically says this is not a convergence,” Sherman said. “This is not an acquisition. This action is independent of what’s going on there [at Eastern Gateway] that we’re taking to serve the region through the mission of this institution.”

As YSU moved forward, it wanted to avoid the possibility of any of Eastern Gateway’s liabilities being assigned to it, he said. 

YSU officials spoke with ODHE, HLC and the U.S. Department of Education to secure clarification, “because we were quite concerned about triggering any kind of issue that would transfer liabilities,” Sherman said.

Attorney Holly Jacobs, vice president and general counsel, said after discussions with the U.S. DOE and working with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and ODHE that the university feels confident it’s on the path to avoid Eastern Gateway’s liabilities. 

“We have treaded very, very lightly to get to this point,” she said. 

YSU has been talking to Eastern Gateway about acquiring equipment.

“We did meet with them about the [Regionally Aligned Priorities in Delivering Skills] equipment that they have secured through state funding and went through the list of equipment that they were using currently that we felt could be used for purposes of the programs we were going to stand up ourselves,” said Jennifer Pintar, interim provost and vice president of academic affairs. 

That list was sent to the state, and Pintar said she expects the state will allow YSU to use that equipment. 

The Rapids program is funded with state bonds, and until the bonds are paid off, the equipment belongs to the state, Sherman said. That allows the Ohio chancellor’s office to reassign the equipment from Eastern Gateway to YSU.

The resolution approved by the committee Thursday is on the agenda of the trustees’ regular meeting Friday morning. The financially strapped Eastern Gateway plans to dissolve Oct. 31 and has voluntarily forfeited its accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission.

YSU’s Academic Senate earlier this year approved the addition of more than 60 associate degree and certificate programs aimed at those who attended Eastern Gateway.

Steubenville Campus

Sherman said YSU has stayed in contact with Jefferson County commissioners, where Eastern Gateway’s main campus is located, to assure them of YSU’s intention to continue to serve the region and to make the point that YSU will have a presence in Jefferson County.

“We just have to work out exactly what that will look like, how that will occur and what the process will be for that to happen,” he said. 

Pintar and several other YSU officials will visit Eastern Gateway’s main campus to determine its condition and other factors relevant to delivering instruction. YSU plans to have a campus in Steubenville, and the Eastern Gateway facility is a likely possibility.

The main classroom building is owned by Eastern Gateway but was deeded to its predecessor, Jefferson County Community College, in the 1960s, with a clause that it be used for educational purposes. It reverts to Jefferson County if it ceases to be used for education.

Attorney Greg Morgione, associate general counsel, said ideally YSU would like to lease the property from Jefferson County if it decides that’s the location for YSU to open a campus there.

Other Matters

Pintar said YSU also is working with the Western Reserve Port Authority on the flight school that Eastern Gateway had planned. 

“What we’re looking at is probably YSU handling the ground course instruction, or the classroom instruction for the program – and then probably contracting with the port authority, who’s actually recently set up its own flight school, for them to do the flight instruction,” Morgione said.

That way, YSU wouldn’t have to lease or insure any airplanes, he said.

YSU is also exploring offering CDL training, which Eastern Gateway also offered.

Also Thursday, the trustees’ finance and facilities committee approved a 3% tuition increase for new students who begin this fall. By law, tuition will remain the same for those students for four years.

The committee also approved a new undergraduate tuition rate for students who enroll at YSU’s Jefferson County location and in the stand-alone associate degree programs. 

“This new tuition rate is about 40% lower than the Penguin Promise rate here at the main campus,” said Neal McNally, vice president of finance and business operations. “It’s higher than Eastern Gateway’s tuition, but it is in line with the tuition at other university branch campuses where associate degrees are offered.”

The finance and facilities committee also approved YSU’s fiscal year 2025 operating budget totaling $183.8 million in unrestricted funds. That includes $163.3 million in general funds supported mainly by student tuition and state funding appropriations.

Also at Thursday’s committee meetings, the university affairs committee approved Pintar as provost and vice president of academic affairs. She’s been in the interim role since January. That committee also approved Sarah Keeler as vice president of government affairs, a new position. Since January, Keeler has been special assistant of government affairs.

The university also announced a new foreign language program. It blends teacher-led instruction with online resources for Spanish, French, German, Chinese and Italian courses.

“Our reimagined Foreign Language Program reflects YSU’s commitment to innovation and excellence in education,” Pintar said in a news release. “By leveraging both traditional instruction and cutting-edge technology, we are equipping students with the skills and cultural competency needed to thrive in today’s interconnected world.”

Charlie Howell, dean of the YSU Beeghly College of Liberal Arts, Social Sciences, and Education, said in the news release that the hybrid approach facilitates flexible learning but also fosters a deeper understanding of language.

“We believe that this immersive experience will empower our students to become global citizens and effective communicators in an increasingly diverse society,” Howell said.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.