By Denise Dick
With permanent locations pinned down in both Youngstown and Warren, Eastern Gateway Community College’s next target is a manufacturing college in the Mahoning Valley.
“Manufacturing needs a community college,” said Laura Meeks, Eastern Gateway president.
The college wants to open a high-quality, low-cost college to meet the needs of business and industry.
Meeks has been meeting with the Mahoning Valley Manufacturing Coalition, determining what those needs are.
Some of those needs are workers who understand how to communicate in a work environment, she said.
The college is applying for a federal grant to begin the school.
Eastern Gateway works with Higher Education Partners in securing its locations.
EGCC opened in the Valley in 2009 and moved into the Valley Center downtown in 2012.
HEP bought the Plaza Place building that houses the center earlier this year, ensuring the college’s presence in the city’s downtown for 20 years.
This summer, the college is moving into the Mickey’s Army and Navy store in downtown Warren.
Though some other colleges scramble to deal with slipping enrollment, EGCC is one of the fastest growing in Ohio.
“The reason people choose a college is cost and then location,” said Ann Koon, EGCC spokeswoman.
EGCC’s main campus is in Jefferson County where the college sees a 30 percent high-school capture rate, Meeks said.
“We’d like to have that happen here too,” she said.
Most of the students attending the Mahoning Valley sites are nontraditional students.
“A 30-year-old is Eastern Gateway’s traditional student,” Meeks said.
One of the ways the college is trying to attract more new high-school graduates is through the Gateway Grant.
The college offers full-tuition scholarships to students who aren’t eligible for the Pell Grant from Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull county high schools who attend EGCC full time the fall semester after graduation.
The scholarship only covers tuition, and students must have a 2.5 grade-point average.
Students must first apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
It’s available for two years.
“We want to take away that barrier of, ‘I can’t afford to go to college,’” Meeks said.