By Denise Dick
About 684 of Eastern Gateway Community College’s 2,590 students enrolled this spring to take classes at the Valley Center, which opened downtown last fall.
The college opened in the Plaza Building at 101 E. Federal St., after first offering classes in a former Forum Health building and then at Choffin Career and Technical Center.
The first phase of renovations of the new quarters involved an information commons area to provide students with access to computers and media resources.
Another section includes student services such as admissions, financial aid, advising and tutoring.
“Work on the remaining class and lab spaces as well as the student commons will be completed by Aug. 1,” Ann Koon, college spokeswoman, said in an email. “Three quadrants are basically complete, and a small part of the fourth is finished.”
Anthony D’Apolito, director of operations, said the center includes several classrooms, most of which include computers, a math emporium, room for distance learning, bookstore, nursing lab and other facilities.
In the distance-learning classroom, students communicate with a professor who is instructing from Eastern Gateway’s main campus in Steubenville. It’s especially useful for a student who needs one particular course to complete a degree that wouldn’t otherwise be offered at the Valley Center.
The math emporium allows students to work at their own pace with guidance from an instructor.
Of students attending the Valley Center, 82 percent are Mahoning County residents, 13 percent live in Trumbull County and 1 percent are residents of Columbiana County. About 1 percent live in other counties, and 2 percent are from out of state.
Most students, 77 percent, are in their first year of college.
Koon said the college again will offer the Gateway Grant this year. The grant allows new high school graduates to attend Eastern Gateway tuition-free, based on at least a 2.5 grade-point average, for four consecutive full-time semesters. To qualify, 2013 graduates must start classes full time this fall.
“It is a great way to start your college education with little or no debt,” Koon said.
Eastern Gateway, which has its main campus in Steubenville, saw 3 percent growth in head count this semester, the only reported increase among public two-year colleges in Ohio.
Last year, “Community College Week” listed the college among the top 5 percent in the fastest-growing community colleges in the country.
From fall 2010 to fall 2011, EGCC’s enrollment increased 10.5 percent, placing it 54th on the list of more than 1,200 community colleges.
The college, which offers courses at other Mahoning Valley sites including Columbiana County Career and Technical Center and in the Atrium Building on Market Street at Park Avenue in Warren, is looking for more permanent space in downtown Warren.
No sites have been identified.
“At this point, there is no new information on a permanent location in Warren,” the spokeswoman said. “The college remains dedicated to this project.”