Eastern Gateway college moves ahead as planned


Eastern Gateway Community College is no where near the stage of being an institution of higher learning in need of a central campus. While EGCC’s enrollment of more than 2,000 might be seen by advocates of a main location as justification for pursuing such a concept, it should be noted that most of those students are from the Jefferson County Campus, formerly Jefferson County Community College.

Since Eastern Gateway opened its many doors last fall, about 300 students from Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties have enrolled to take courses at six sites in the area: Choffin Career & Technical Center, the Valley Center (in a Northside Medical Center building), Mahoning County Career & Technical Center, Trumbull Career & Technical Center, Columbiana County Career & Technical Center, and the Jefferson campus in Steubenville.

In other words, EGCC is far from being in a position to justify the huge expenditure of tax dollars to create a central campus, as the faith-based grass-roots organization, ACTION, has been advocating. First you crawl, then you walk and then you run. The immediate order of business must be to increase enrollment, and that means making the community college brand recognizable and necessary.

A seventh site will, in all likelihood, be the Atrium Building in downtown Warren. Classrooms would occupy the first and third floors.

On Sunday, Gov. Ted Strickland, Congressman Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, Mayor Michael O’Brien, Dr. Laura Meeks, president of Eastern Gateway, and Dr. Roy Church, president of Lorain County Community College, were on hand to talk about how the Warren location would fit into the overall scheme. No opening date was announced, but Ryan said he hopes classes would begin in the fall of this year.

As for the cost of renovating the building, officials indicated that $1 million is being sought through Ohio’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program, while EGCC and the city have submitted a grant application to the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council. Warren will apply for money to support information technology wiring, equipment and computer labs in the building, while Trumbull County commissioners will be asked to provide supplemental funding. The county has benefitted from an energy aggregation rebate program.

Reassurance

President Meeks has consistently sought to reassure residents in the tri-county area that the Warren location is not the first step toward the creation of a central campus and the ultimate end of classes at the six other sites.

“We can’t have Eastern Gateway Community College without the career centers,” she said Sunday. Meeks pointed out that the centers have excellent science and information technology labs that do not need to be duplicated.

The president’s position is in line with what Gov. Strickland and Chancellor of Higher Education Eric Fingerhut had in mind when they proposed the creation of a two-year institution for the Mahoning Valley.

Fingerhut has been clear that the goal of EGCC is to make college affordable and accessible to as many people as possible.

The cost of a credit hour at a two-year institution is less than the cost at a four-year college or university.

That’s especially important in this region where many first-year students require remediation in English and math. The chancellor has said that rather than paying what Youngstown State University charges, Eastern Gateway could meet the needs of the students at significant savings.

Indeed, Fingerhut has said that his goal is to redirect students who aren’t ready for the rigors of academia to Eastern Gateway.

After two years, those students would be in a strong position academically to complete their bachelor’s degrees at YSU.

It should be clear by now that a central campus for EGCC is not in the cards.

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