Valley will have to make nice with next president of EGCC

The four finalists for president of Eastern Gateway Community College came to Youngstown to meet the people of the Mahoning Valley and to share their ideas about the future of the two-year institution in the tri-county area. Unfortunately, only a handful of residents attended the public forums that were an integral part of the search process.

Where were the political and community leaders? Where were members of the education establishment — high school and Youngstown State University? Most importantly, where were the business leaders who are increasingly dependent on Eastern Gateway to provide their companies with a qualified, trained workforce?

We can only hope that the next president does not interpret the poor attendance at the forums as a lack of support for EGCC. The fact of the matter is that the two-year institution has experienced phenomenal growth in enrollment in the five-plus years it has been in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. Indeed, EGCC has become an integral part of the higher education landscape in this region, and is now well positioned to take advantage of the emphasis being placed on community colleges by Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican controlled General Assembly.

The architect of the expansion of Jefferson Community College in Steubenville to the Mahoning Valley is Dr. Laura Meeks, who has served as president for more than 15 years and who will be retiring in July.

As we said in an editorial in the wake of Meeks’ announcement last October, “ ... her departure in nine months should be cause for concern in the area.”

Why cause for concern? Because Meeks’ commitment to this region and to making EGCC as much a part of the community as Youngstown State University is unwavering.

Will her successor share her vision?

In their public appearances in Youngstown, the four finalists, Jimmie Bruce, Lada Gibson-Shreve, Derrick Manns and Anthony Summers, voiced their support for what Meeks and the board of trustees have done to not only expand the college’s reach, but to meet the challenges facing higher education in Ohio.

Establishing a relationship

The new president is expected to be named by the end of the month, which means the people of the Mahoning Valley will have four months to establish the kind of relationship that now exists with Meeks.

In addition to the Valley Center in downtown Youngstown, EGCC operates the Warren Center in the city’s downtown and offers classes at career and technical centers in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

It has an enrollment of more than 3,000 in this region, and from all indications the number will keep rising.

Why? Because Gov. Kasich and the General Assembly are pressuring four-year institutions like Youngstown State to eliminate their student remediation programs. They want high school graduates who are not prepared for the academic rigors of four-year institutions to attend community colleges, which are more suited for students who need help. They also cost less to attend than universities.

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