By Denise Dick
Workers are finishing construction this week on eight new classrooms inside Eastern Gateway Community College’s Valley Center downtown before fall semester classes begin Monday.
The additional classrooms are to accommodate increased enrollment at the center, which opened in fall 2012, said Dante Zambrini, the college’s interim vice president for the Mahoning Valley.
To make way for the new classrooms, most administrative offices moved into the 10th floor of the Chase Bank building.
EGCC and its partner, Higher Education Partners, which owns the Valley Center, always planned to complete work on the center in phases, Zambrini said.
“We decided to keep this as our classroom building,” he said.
Though some larger universities have seen enrollment fall — Youngstown State University saw a 6.5 percent drop in fall semester enrollment this year compared with last year’s — EGCC’s enrollment has been increasing.
No enrollment numbers are available yet for fall, but Zambrini said the college saw 300 new high-school graduates apply this year, compared with 189 last year.
Last fall, EGCC saw a 15 percent enrollment increase compared with the previous year, the highest percentage among the state’s public university main and regional campuses and community colleges.
Though some people view Eastern Gateway as a competitor to YSU, Zambrini said the two institutions have struck a partnership similar to those of other communities that have both a community college and a larger university.
“This is the first time there’s been a community college in this region,” he said.
Having the two schools working together allows students to take two years of classes at Eastern Gateway, earn their associate degree and transfer the credits to YSU where they can continue toward their bachelor’s degree. The credits transfer to other universities, too.
YSU officials for their part have said that some of the students who no longer will be accepted there, since it’s no longer an open admission university, would be referred to Eastern Gateway.
Although classes begin at EGCC Monday, students still can sign up for classes through Sept. 22 utilizing the flex-start option. That’s also the day flex-start fall courses begin although they end at the same time as regular fall courses.
Zambrini said it’s for students who may not decide to attend classes until late, don’t get their financial aid packages before the regular fall class schedule or drop one course and want to pick up another. Schedules are altered to ensure students get the required hours.