ACTION wants YSU to reconsider cutting ties with Youngstown Early College.
By Harold Gwin
LIBERTY — The president of Eastern Gateway Community College said she would like Youngstown State University to allow Youngstown Early College to remain on campus one more year as Eastern Gateway moves to take over the college end of the program.
“We’re going to need space,” said Laura Meeks, noting that the transition to becoming a YEC partner came “a little quicker than we thought, but it is doable.”
YEC, with 250 students, is in its sixth year. It is a partnership between the Youngstown city schools and Youngstown State University that puts selected city high school students on the YSU campus to earn college credits while completing their high school education.
The YSU Board of Trustees, citing costs and the need to re-focus priorities, voted last week to terminate the partnership effective June 30, the end of the current fiscal year. EGCC has stepped forward, offering to pick up the program, with some assistance from the community, Meeks said.
She was attending an open public forum on EGCC Monday at Liberty High School hosted by ACTION, a faith-based community organization that is pushing for the community college to have its own brick-and-mortar central campus.
EGCC began operations last fall and is offering classes at six locations in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and Jefferson counties now. Gov. Ted Strickland and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, joined Meeks and other officials in Warren on Sunday to look at a downtown building for a seventh location.
Warren will be a seventh site, and not a central campus, Meeks said — adding that she would like to see it offer some special programming, including a 24/7 midnight mathematics lab for students.
Concerns that the development of a campus in Warren will lessen the importance of the county career and technical centers in the EGCC arrangement are unfounded, Meeks said.
Those centers have excellent science and information technology labs that EGCC isn’t going to duplicate, she said, adding, “We can’t have Eastern Gateway Community College without the career centers.”
During the forum, which drew about 200 people, ACTION had federal, state and local elected officials sign a pledge to do all they can to bring a brick-and-mortar campus for EGCC to downtown Warren. Ryan said recent federal legislation provides money for community colleges, including money to erect buildings.
The forum also turned into a rally for Youngstown Early College, with repeated calls for the program to be saved.
It is the only Youngstown school rated as academically excellent by the state.
The Rev. Lewis W. Macklin II, president of the ACTION board of directors and emcee of the forum, called the YSU trustees’ action “irresponsible and reckless behavior.” The university needs to allow appropriate time for a transition to another college institution, he said.
ACTION has gathered more than 400 signatures on petitions it intends to deliver to the YSU trustees calling for a reconsideration of its decision on YEC, or a transition period for it to move to another institution.
Macklin called on those in the crowd to show up at a YSU trustees’ meeting at 2 p.m. March 12 at which time he said a reconsideration vote will be taken.
However, Trustee Harry Meshel, who attended Monday’s forum, told The Vindicator there are no plans for a reconsideration vote. The university is willing to help with the transition to Eastern Gateway, he said.
In a statement released Monday, Anthony Catale, president of the Youngstown Board of Education, and Scott Schulick, chairman of the Youngstown State University Board of Trustees, said they will appoint a joint committee to oversee the transition of Youngstown Early College.
The goal of the committee will be to set in place a plan to transition the program so that it can continue without disruption into next school year, the statement said.
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