State: EGCC plan won’t end link with career centers

By Harold Gwin

The career centers have been assured they will remain partners.

YOUNGSTOWN — Ohio’s chancellor of higher education said locating a campus for Eastern Gateway Community College in Warren doesn’t mean the college’s relationship with county career and technical centers will end.

“The establishment of a college center in downtown Warren does not mean the abandonment of the career centers,” Eric Fingerhut said in a statement released through EGCC. “They are vital partners.”

An announcement last week by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, that he and Gov. Ted Strickland intended to create a central campus for EGCC in Warren’s Courthouse Square caused concern among the community college’s educational partners in career and technical centers in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

Ryan said that although details have yet to be worked out, the reliance on the career and technical centers to serve as branch campuses likely would be diminished.

However, Laura Meeks, EGCC president, said the college will continue to use those satellite locations that provide needed classroom and laboratory space.

EGCC, which began offering its first classes this fall, was created without a central campus, relying on partnerships with career and technical centers and Jefferson Community College (now the Jefferson County Campus of EGCC) to provide the facilities, and, in some cases, the instructors.

“The college is consistently planning and implementing its original concept to provide a virtual learning atmosphere and to use existing facilities at the four career centers in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties,” Meeks said.

To supplement the work at the career centers and to further reach Mahoning Valley residents, the college established The Valley Center at the Forum Health Northside Medical Center in Youngstown. That center has classrooms and administrative offices to bring services closer to the residents, she said.

“Now, we see the opportunity to establish another Valley Center-like presence in Warren but on a little larger scale,” Meeks said after a recent meeting with Ryan. “Congressman Ryan has suggested searching for a physical location in downtown Warren. This would give us space to have an admissions area, classrooms and other administrative and support services like an open computer lab and possibly a math center for area residents.”

Although this is ahead of the schedule the college envisioned for the coming decade, the possibility of bringing back more federal tax dollars to the Mahoning Valley to create educational opportunities is an opportunity worth exploring, Meeks said.

After the meeting, Ryan and Meeks issued a joint statement expressing the continued need for the career centers, noting that those facilities are ideal for use for many of EGCC’s career programs.

“We don’t have to duplicate important lab space and equipment,” Ryan said.

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