By Denise Dick
Youngstown Early College students will be Youngstown State University students again under a new agreement between YSU, the city schools and Eastern Gateway Community College.
“Starting next year, Youngstown Early College will be under the auspices of YSU,” Marcia Haire-Ellis, a city school-board member, said at a school-board meeting this week.
That comes just two years after YSU had decided to transition YEC students to the community college.
The early college started in 2004 as a joint program launched by the university and the city schools to allow selected high-school students to earn college credit while completing their high-school education in a college-campus setting.
In February 2010, though, a YSU trustees committee voted to terminate the partnership at the end of that school year, mainly because of finances. In April 2010, that same committee instead approved a three-year transition plan, moving YEC from YSU to EGCC.
“The city schools came to us with concerns that if students didn’t have the campus experience, their success might be compromised,” said Ikram Khawaja, YSU provost and vice president for academic affairs.
Because many YEC students are first-generation college students and may be considered at-risk, the university and the city schools want to ensure everything is done to help them make a smooth transition, he said.
Part of the reason proponents believe YEC has been successful is because students are on a college campus with other college students. At the time discussions started, Eastern Gateway was housed in Choffin Career and Technical Center.
In spring 2011, YSU’s board approved an addendum to the transition plan to allow YEC juniors to have the option of being either YSU or Eastern Gateway students, said Greg Morgione, YSU associate general counsel.
Under the latest plan, freshmen who entered the dual enrollment program at Eastern Gateway in fall 2012 will continue at Eastern Gateway in 2013-14 with dual enrollment classes. Sophomores who entered the program at Eastern Gateway in fall 2012 will have a choice of taking classes in 2013-14 at Eastern Gateway or YSU.
Also beginning in fall 2013, juniors will have a choice of taking their YEC classes at Eastern Gateway or YSU.
Haire-Ellis said that students, their parents and academic advisers will decide whether a student should pursue the studies at EGCC or YSU.
Eastern Gateway still will be part of the Early College.
“Eastern Gateway’s role will continue with Youngstown Early College, including the transition of the various classes in the next two years,” Christina Wanat, EGCC chief administrator of student learning, said in an email.
Khawaja said financial concerns have been alleviated as the city school district is covering YEC students’ tuition costs.
When YEC first started, the full YSU tuition was funded by the state and grant money from KnowledgeWorks and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Those funds were phased out, though.
YSU faced covering staff costs on its own.
The city school district now foots the bill for staffing. Tuition, whether for YSU or EGCC , is about $103 per credit hour and covered by the school district as well, Khawaja said.
Though he acknowledged that YEC students provide additional enrollment numbers for YSU, he says that wasn’t the driving force in the decision.
YSU’s enrollment slump, which started in fall 2011 and continues this semester, wasn’t an issue when discussions began.
“We looked at it and reassessed and decided, if student-success is our paramount interest, to do it,” Khawaja said.
He credited YSU’s trustees for being receptive to the change. Memoranda of understanding must be approved among all of the entities to finalize the change.