Spend some time talking to Dr. Jimmie Bruce, president of Eastern Gateway Community College, and other top administrators, and you come away a true believer. Their enthusiasm is contagious.
But, it’s more than just talk for Bruce, who has been at the helm of the two-year institution since July 2015.
Last year, Eastern Gateway, with campuses in Jefferson, Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, was the fastest growing public college in Ohio.
It has an enrollment of 5,700, which is expected to grow to 6,500 by the end of spring.
But it’s the Youngstown story that serves as the exclamation point to EGCC’s impressive record.
In April 2015, in an editorial praising Bruce’s appointment as president, we noted the important role played by his predecessor, Dr. Laura Meeks, in creating a regional two-year institution.
“By every objective standard, things have been going right with Eastern Gateway Community College, formerly Jefferson Community College, especially with its expansion into the Mahoning Valley, the brainchild of Dr. Meeks,” we wrote. “She worked with state and Mahoning Valley officials and with Youngstown State University in developing a blueprint for establishing its presence in the area.”
Bruce was cognizant of Meeks’ success in expanding the college beyond Jefferson County and let it be known that he intended to build upon what had been established.
Now, two years later, Bruce is on the verge of taking EGCC to the next level.
BRANCH CAMPUS STATUS
As Vindicator Education Writer Amanda Tonoli reported last week, the downtown Youngstown location may soon become a branch campus.
If the designation is approved by the Higher Learning Commission – a site visit is expected in the next few months – a dean will be appointed to run the campus on the east end of downtown.
EGCC is now seeking applicants for the position, and it’s possible that an appointment will be made in the next month or so.
Transforming the Youngstown location into a branch campus means that the higher education needs of Mahoning Valley residents will be addressed in specific ways.
There’s no doubt that Youngstown State University is one of the most important drivers of the region’s economy because it prepares students for the ever-changing workplace. In addition, YSU is a key player in the development of additive manufacturing processes that has put the Valley on the national and international map.
However, as we’ve noted in previous editorials, not all high school graduates are prepared for the academic rigors of a four-year institution, and not everyone can afford the cost – even though YSU has one of the lowest tuition rates of all of Ohio’s four-year public universities and colleges.
That is why Eastern Gateway Community College has been so successful.
“In 2016 [EGCC] had the largest number of graduates from the Youngstown-Warren area, and we anticipate more in 2017,” Dr. Bruce noted. “We have students from 48 of the 50 states including Hawaii and Alaska.”
During a Vindicator Editorial Board meeting earlier this month, Bruce was accompanied by Christina Wanat, vice president of Employee and Student Development and Special Projects, and Sherri Van Tassel, executive vice president for Administrative, Legal and Governmental Affairs.
Also present were Sarah Boyarko, the Regional Chamber’s senior vice president, economic development; and, Brian Benyo, president and chairman of the board of the Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, and Jessica Borza, executive director of the coalition.
We list the participants to highlight the partnerships that Eastern Gateway has formed in this region and its commitment to educating and training students for the jobs that are available in business and industry in the Valley.
Benyo, in particular, speaks from personal experience when he talks about the needs of employers. He owns Brilex Industries in Youngstown. He also chairs the Youngstown City School District Academic Distress Commission, which is charged by state law with governing the academically challenged school system.
The connections that Dr. Bruce and other EGCC officials have made in the Valley have contributed to the college’s success.