By Amanda Tonoli
The downtown Youngs-town location of Eastern Gateway Community College is helping to redevelop the city by growing into what may soon be a branch campus.
EGCC has locations in Columbiana, Jefferson, Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
Jimmie Bruce, EGCC president, said the community college is becoming the fastest-growing public college in Ohio with 5,700 students now enrolled and an anticipated 6,500 by the end of spring.
“In 2016, [EGCC] had the largest number of graduates from the Youngstown- Warren area, and we anticipate more in 2017,” he said. “We have students from 48 of the 50 states including Hawaii and Alaska.”
Bruce said the Youngstown location has truly become a separate campus.
“We are on our way to becoming a multicampus college,” he said. “With all of the activity we have going on, we got the Ohio Department of Higher Education to approve our Youngstown designation as a branch campus.”
Bruce added there will be a site visit within the next few months, and, once the Higher Learning Commission gives a successful evaluation, the Youngstown campus will be a branch with a dean.
“We are advertising for that position as we speak and hope to have that person on board within the next month,” Bruce said.
More students may be flocking to the community college due to its comparatively low tuition, innovative programs and partnerships dedicated to post-graduate success. According to EGCC, its tuition is a third of what The Ohio State University charges – a full-time student pays about $3,450 for the year.
“It’s a story that often doesn’t get told,” Bruce said. “We are beginning to get the word out: ‘If you’re not ready and want a more affordable option for college, EGCC is a place to start.’”
The school’s partnerships with the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition and Youngstown State University are helping to smooth the process from graduation to the next step.
EGCC’s partnership with the MVMC helps better prepare the school’s outgoing workforce for employment.
Brian Benyo, president of Brilex Industries and a founding member of MVMC, said from a manufacturing and business leader standpoint, his company relies on EGCC students to come ready for the job.
“What we do is address the skills and gaps manufacturers are seeing in the new workforce,” Benyo said. “This [partnership] allows skill gaps to be filled in by the trade rather than employers. It ensures students coming out of college or school have the necessary skill set.”
From the evaluation to the training of EGCC students, the partnership has “an ecosystem responsive to manufacturers’ needs,” Benyo said.
“We really needed this tie [with MVMC] to better evaluate how students can best meet the needs of the industry,” he said.
A variety of internships and externships also are available with the help of the partnership, allowing students to be better linked to jobs after graduation.
Bruce said it is very important for EGCC’s leadership to take students to that next level.
“We understand the ramifications when students get to the graduation points with student loans,” he said. “We want to help ensure payoff for the students’ loans and make sure they make a good living wage to have a viable life.”
Bruce added that being able to increase students’ employment opportunities is a great thing for any college.
Another program attraction students are flocking to is online classes. Bruce said EGCC now has four, two-year programs entirely online: business administration, criminal justice, general education and an associate of arts.
“We are very proud of the work we’ve done at expanding our online education,” he said.
EGCC also has a partnership with YSU for students who want to continue their education.
“YSU makes it easy for them to continue in certain programs,” Bruce said. “[YSU President Jim] Tressel has been a tremendous asset to us.”
Bruce added: “The best people we can serve are our constituents.”