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Eastern Gateway Community College pauses spring registrations

Staff, students want questions answered

STEUBENVILLE — Youngstown State University is helping students impacted by Eastern Gateway Community College’s decision to “pause” registration to make sure those who are academically eligible can enroll at YSU or another community college to complete their degrees.

“We are pleased to ensure that affected students have the opportunity to register for classes at Youngstown State University,” YSU President Bill Johnson said. “Additionally, we look forward to working with the Ohio Department of Higher Education and our regional community college partners to help those students who wish to continue on their academic pathway at one of Ohio’s two-year schools.”

Students also can enroll in classes at Stark State College, Belmont College, Washington State College of Ohio, Cuyahoga Community College and Hocking College.

YSU will coordinate with the state’s higher education department to advise Eastern Gateway students on the best path to continue their education when it involves collaborating with community colleges.

Meanwhile, reaction within the school’s community to Wednesday’s announcement that Eastern Gateway would not register students beyond the spring semester was “very disappointed, frustrated, angry,” Jim Corrin, president of Eastern Gateway’s Education Association, said.

“Staff and faculty have given their lives to this college and the students,” he said. “This didn’t have to happen and should not have happened. The members want those responsible for this to be held accountable.”

In a statement confirming the decision, the state’s department of high education said the pause “will provide an opportunity for Eastern Gateway to evaluate options to resolve ongoing financial difficulties partly due to delayed federal funding.”

Those delays stemmed from the department’s concern with Eastern Gateway’s Free College Benefits program and allegations the college was improperly subsidizing its growth with Pell Grant funds meant to help income-eligible students get degrees. The government ordered Eastern Gateway to stop offering the program and submit a teach out agreement, prompting the college to file suit in federal court in September 2022.

After months of legal wrangling, the college asked the court earlier this year to dismiss the suit and let the two sides negotiate a settlement, but student-aid reimbursements continued to trickle into school coffers.

“We have a plan to ensure students finish this semester as normal,” board of trustees Chairman Jim Gasior said. “And while we pause registration for the summer and beyond, Youngstown State University primarily and community colleges from throughout the region have offered to welcome our students, provide continuity and allow students to continue their programs of study as seamlessly as possible for their next semester.”

Corrin, though, said there are questions that need answered.

“We would like to get clarification on what ‘pause’ means,” he said. “What does that do for our current students? Are they on ‘pause’ as well? At the end of the semester, are we all laid off, including administrators? When will they begin making cuts? And will the administration receive cuts to include associate VPs (vice presidents) on up to senior-level VPs? (There’s) a lot of unanswered questions.”

Corrin said from what he’s seen, “students are very upset and angry — concerned about graduation, concerned if their degree even means anything or was it a waste of time and money?”

They too, he said, are looking for answers.

“We still have not received any notice from the college and we don’t know what to tell our students,” he said.

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