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YSU announces expansion into Steubenville

Looks to fill void created by Eastern Gateway’s closure

STEUBENVILLE — Youngstown State University President Bill Johnson said Friday that the institution applied Thursday with the Higher Learning Commission to create an additional location in Steubenville to help Eastern Gateway Community College students continue their education without interruption.

In the wake of Eastern Gateway’s Feb. 21 decision to “pause” registration beyond the spring semester, Johnson said YSU is working with Eastern Gateway, the Ohio Department of Higher Education, the office of Gov. Mike DeWine and other local community colleges to “provide a seamless path for students so that they can continue their education, whatever that path might be for them.”

“We are working as hard as we can to be the entry point for those students to make sure that they are able to continue their education on their terms,” Johnson said.

Plans for a Steubenville-YSU campus have been in the works for “a while,” Johnson said, noting that Eastern Gateway’s registration pause had been anticipated. Now, he said, YSU desires to ensure students don’t lose what they’ve invested in the community college.

“Students should not notice a difference, other than they’ll be going to a Youngstown State University website to enroll,” Johnson said.

With a physical location yet to be determined, the new operational campus would roll Eastern Gateway students into existing YSU programs, create certain programs and collaborate with five regional community colleges to cover programs that YSU chooses not to pursue itself because they are outside of the university’s “core competencies,” Johnson said.

Rebecca Rose, YSU’s director of marketing and communications, said that exactly how the university will go about providing seamless programming is still up for discussion. However, she noted that YSU’s Academic Senate met Thursday and voted unanimously to approve addendums to existing policies to provide the desired transition system.

“This sets the foundation for building the right process to ensure that students can complete their programs,” Rose said.

Prices for programs are not expected to change from Eastern Gateway’s standard, Johnson said, adding that YSU is aiming for “one of the lowest costs around,” in compliance with state regulations.

The new campus will be accepting applications as early as next week, Johnson said, and plans call for operations to begin in the summer or fall.

Johnson addressed how YSU, primarily a four-year educational institution, will be able to shift its focus toward fulfilling the academic goals of Eastern Gateway, which deals in certifications, associate degrees and trade education.

“We offer a full spectrum of continuum of education, from certifications … for the building trades and others, all the way up through associate, bachelor, master and doctoral degrees.

“What this is going to provide for the students in Jefferson County and the region surrounding it, (is) they will have many, many more opportunities to go all the way from a certification to a doctoral degree. The ball will be in their court, and they’ll have many more educational opportunities associated with that.”

Johnson said the university will be bringing to Jefferson County something it has never had before: An academic institution that not only provides the certifications and nursing training essential in the Appalachian region but also education that extends to doctoral degrees. This, he said, will open up more options for county residents as to what they can pursue.

“It’s a broad spectrum of educational needs, and we want to make sure our students have the choice to do whatever they want.”

Jefferson County Commissioner Tony Morelli, who said it will be good to have a four-year college in the county, noted how it appears many residents who pursue a four-year degree outside of the county often relocate permanently. With YSU in the county, Morelli said, “Maybe we’ll be able to keep (students) here.”

On Friday, Johnson attended a meeting at the Jefferson County Educational Service Center, during which he met with regional school superintendents to discuss how to continue another crucial program that has been run under Eastern Gateway, College Credit Plus.

Johnson said a team from YSU is working out the details, but the university hopes to keep critical program aspects the same, including associated costs. Eastern Gateway students and regional students in general will be offered pricing by YSU at the same rate as Eastern Gateway.

“Typically, a university like Youngstown would have a higher CCP charge than a community college because the amenities that are offered to an on-campus student at Youngstown State would be different. We’re lowering our costs to match up with Eastern Gateway’s costs.”

To Eastern Gateway students unsure about their next steps, Johnson said, “Don’t worry. We’re going to handle that for you. You’re going to be able to finish your program.”

As to the future of Eastern Gateway itself, Johnson said he can’t say for certain. However, he said that YSU’s new campus will need to be staffed, so the university is inviting current Eastern Gateway faculty members to apply for employment as programs are solidified for the summer.

Eastern Gateway’s registration halt comes about five months after the closing of Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi, W.Va., and it was followed on Thursday by a notice of closure from Notre Dame College in South Euclid.

Johnson said universities at large are taking an “introspective look at higher education,” being tasked with evolving their programming to suit today’s workforce needs or closing. Johnson said progression for YSU, which itself underwent a program realignment several weeks ago, has involved staying ahead of anticipated workforce needs in the region.

Johnson’s familiarity with the region comes from his 13 years representing Ohio’s 6th Congressional district before he resigned to become YSU’s 10th president in January. Johnson said his invitation to take on the role was unexpected but has been “fantastic” so far.

“(I believe) the people of this district, like the people of Jefferson County, appreciated the work that my team did to meet their needs and concerns (in Congress.) We’re going to do that now from an education perspective for the students of Jefferson County and beyond.”

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