YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – At a time when public colleges and universities see declines in enrollment, Eastern Gateway Community College is posting gains in acquiring and keeping its students.

Before the pandemic, 88% of EGCC students were enrolled in online courses. Offering curriculum online proved to be “a real shot in the arm for us” in terms of enrollment during the pandemic, EGCC President Michael Geoghegan says.

“Our enrollment in fall of 2020, six months after COVID hit, was 50% higher than it was in the fall of 2019,” Geoghegan says.

 

Total enrollment for fall 2021 at EGCC is 47,015 on both campuses and online, which is up from 40,033 in fall 2020 and up from 25,638 in 2019. Students from the four-county district it serves, by comparison, was 3,518 in fall 2021.

Enrollment is underway for spring semester, which Geoghegan estimates will be up 5% year-over-year.

Those enrollment increases buck the national trend, which saw fall 2021 enrollment at community colleges and two-year schools drop 14% from 2019, according to U.S. News.

Geoghegan credits the success at Eastern Gateway to its virtual education infrastructure.

“Because of the investments we made internally in technology, our student information system and our learning management system, it is very easy for students to attend Eastern Gateway,” he says.

Students can access course material on their time, which is beneficial since most of the students at EGCC work full- or part-time, he says. A new phone app increases that accessibility, letting students view their schedules and current classes, access the latest campus information and even do some coursework on their phones.

 

Through its free college benefit program, EGCC has minimized some barriers to enrollment for students from Mahoning, Columbiana, Trumbull and Jefferson counties. The benefit covers tuition, fees or books not covered by federal or employer education grants.

After completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, students must agree to limit any loans they receive to $1,000, he says.

“Our focus is on giving students the opportunity to get a community college degree and a workforce credential,” Geoghegan says. “We don’t want them leaving with a heavy burden of debt.”

EGCC enrolls a diverse student body, 70% of whom are female and 40% are students of color. The average student age is 34. The EGCC student profile is a 36-year-old working mother of two, he says.

Now, EGCC is turning its attention toward high school students. Currently, it enrolls about 1,500 high school students through the Ohio  College Credit Plus program, which allows students to simultaneously earn college and high school credits by taking EGCC courses.

Courses and instructional materials are free for the students. All College Credit Plus students are considered EGCC students and can transfer their credits to more than 1,000 Ohio colleges and universities.

In 2020, EGCC graduated 62 students from the program, who each earned a two-year degree in the process “and really never set foot on the campus,” Geoghegan says.

During one of the peaks of the pandemic in spring 2021, all in-seat courses were remote, including welding and health care programs with clinicals. EGCC was able to get students back in-person during the summer to finish the spring semester.

Since returning, online enrollment has increased to about 95% of the student body, he says. EGCC had to pull back a bit on in-seat courses because of the delta variant driving spikes in COVID cases, he says. “We’re looking for the spring to bring everybody back” to other in-seat programs.

More than half of the EGCC workforce is also working remote, he notes.

“We couldn’t have done that. We couldn’t have pivoted. We couldn’t have been as successful as we were when COVID hit if we didn’t have all of these sorts of investments in place at the time,” Geoghegan says.

Those investments have also helped EGCC to combat, to some extent, the demographic cliff that is shrinking enrollment at institutions of higher education across the United States.

EGCC recently elected its first student government association. Its president, Jeanette-Fe Rizzo, lives and works in Los Angeles.

“Our community college has to be one-of-a-kind in the country in the sense that we have students from all 50 states,” Geoghegan says.

Drawing out-of-state students with online enrollment is a financial boon to the region as well, Geoghegan says.

“The Pell [Grant] monies that they’re using come right into our service district,” he says. “It allowed us to be able to purchase our two buildings here.”

In June 2020, the Ohio Controlling Board approved EGCC’s request to buy what is now Thomas Humphries Hall at 101 E. Federal St. and the Healthcare Workforce Building at 101 E. Boardman St. for a combined $9.69 million.

In addition to enrollment, EGCC continues to improve its retention rate, says Art Daly, senior vice president for the Youngstown campus.

From fall 2019 to 2020, the retention rate collegewide was 57.1%. It has increased steadily since fall 2016 to 2017, when it was 49%.

Daly attributes those increases to the EGCC support for students to overcome various barriers to education – not just financial. Regardless of class size, faculty and adjunct faculty focus on giving each student the attention needed for successful outcomes and graduation, he says.

“Sometimes we have first-generation students that come through our institution and we have the support to make sure that we don’t lose them through the cracks,” Daly says. “We make sure our faculty are definitely engaging, because I know that can be a critical piece.”

EGCC also focuses on job placement after graduation, Daly notes.

“We were speaking with the CEO of Mercy Health and at any one time they’ve got 350 nurse openings,” Geoghegan says. “We want to help fill that pipeline.”

Eastern Gateway is working to expand its nursing programs to meet that need. The community college has 200 nursing students enrolled and another 68 coming into the program between this spring and the fall of 2022, Daly says.

“Because we know there’s an aging population, there’s a health crisis that we have for some of our older folks that are living in some of these assisted living places. And they need help and hospital settings are overburdened,” he says.

In January, the Youngstown campus will add a radiology technology program, which is already offered at the Steubenville campus.

The Youngstown campus is also promoting other programs, such as medical assisting and health-information management, all of which can be done online. Future post-graduate certifications being considered include mammography, MRI and CT scanning.

“We see the areas of opportunity and need,” Daly says. “And that’s exactly where we want to be.”

One area of expansion is establishing a badging system that will allow students to front-load their course work with focus-area classes to earn a credential while they still attend school. Another is a new program to certify technicians for electric-vehicle charging stations.

Eastern Gateway looks to have its additive manufacturing program, in collaboration with America Makes, established by fall 2022, possibly with a makerspace on campus, Daly says. Also, EGCC trains workers at Ultium Cells LLC in Lordstown on programmable logic control systems.

Ensuring students find employment after graduation is part of EGCC’s accreditation.

In early November, the Higher Learning Commission placed the community college on probation for up to two years, changing its accreditation status to “Accredited – On Probation.”

The action followed a comprehensive evaluation by the commission in November 2020.

Geoghegan dismissed the findings as related to operational issues under the former EGCC president, Jimmie Bruce, such as how it vets faculty, he says.

“We went back and forth with the accreditor because we just didn’t agree with their findings,” Geoghegan says. “But their findings are pretty autonomous.”

The probation period doesn’t affect financial aid and students will still be able to graduate or transfer, he says. He allows, however, that some private schools might not transfer their credits because of the probation status.

EGCC is scheduling listening sessions for students and updating its website at EGCC.edu with the latest information. “So far, we haven’t had a lot of concern from our students,” he says.

And Geoghegan says he’s “fully confident” Eastern Gateway is close to getting back to being fully accredited. The community college needs to complete an assurance argument based on five criteria.

A draft will be ready by next fall. It will be submitted to the commission for review in February 2023, he says.

Hiring a vice president of institutional effectiveness is one of the first steps the college has taken. That will address the internal processes for assessing and documenting student and program outcomes, he says.

“We’re having project teams set up for each of the five criteria that will be led by our vice president of institutional effectiveness,” Geoghegan says. “We hired a new assessment coordinator, who will be our academic liaison officer with the accreditor. They’re already working very well together.

“We’re not going to wait until the last minute. We’re going to make sure that we’re going to be in constant communication with our liaison officer,” he says.

Pictured: Art Daly, senior vice president for Eastern Gateway Community College Youngstown campus, and EGCC President Michael Geoghegan review the college’s strategic plan.

EGCC launches Summer Guarantee

The Vindicator | May 3, 2020

https://www.vindy.com/news/business-news/2020/05/egcc-launches-summer-guarantee/

Ensures no out-of-pocket costs for students with CARES Act support

YOUNGSTOWN — Eastern Gateway Community College has launched the EGCC Summer Guarantee, a program that allows students to take summer semester classes with no out-of-pocket costs, including tuition, fees and books.

For new, continuing and returning students who reside in the college’s service district — Trumbull, Mahoning, Columbiana and Jefferson counties — the program will be a “last dollar” scholarship that will cover students’ costs after Pell Grants and other financial aid eligibility is determined.

It is also available to students enrolled at another college or university, but are back home in the service district for the summer.

“The federal stimulus bill, the CARES Act, provided funding to colleges to help cover the costs of transitioning to online learning during the novel coronavirus pandemic and to ensure students continue to receive their education, especially those students facing economic hardship,” said Interim President Michael Geoghegan.

The college will receive just under $1 million in funding through the CARES Act to support students after academic disruption as a result of COVID-19.

To be eligible for the program, students must have completed a 2019-20 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and submitted an EGCC online application. Summer courses begin June 1.

In addition to tuition assistance, the legislation provided funding for direct assistance to students to remove barriers to continuing their education. The college is reviewing guidlines and will provide additional information as it becomes available.

EGCC tuition plan good for region

Herald Star | April 30, 2020

https://www.heraldstaronline.com/opinion/editorials/2020/04/egcc-tuition-plan-good-for-region/

Eastern Gateway Community College is putting its expertise in online and distance learning to use to offer local students the chance to take summer classes with no out-of-pocket costs.

The school announced Monday a program called the EGCC Summer Guarantee, which will allow students to earn college credit during the summer semester at no cost to them — not for tuition, not for fees and not for books.

Described as a “last dollar” scholarship, it will cover out-of pocket costs after Pell Grants and other financial aid legibility has been determined.

The program is open to new, continuing and returning students who live in the college’s service district, which includes Jefferson, Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

Students who are enrolled at other colleges and universities and are back at home in the service area also are eligible to participate.

It’s a move that comes at the right time for area residents who have experienced disruption in their education as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and falls right in line with the school’s mission of providing quality and affordable education.

Technology, and EGCC’s expanding online presence, plays a big part in that equation. Officials explained that before the school was forced into a full-scale conversion to distance learning as a response to the social distancing and other restrictions that have been put into place as a response to the rapid spread of the coronavirus, 88 percent of EGCC’s students were taking at least one online course.

All students have to do to become eligible for the program and summer classes, which begin June 1, is to have completed a 2019-2020 Free Application for Federal Student Aid form and an online application. Much of the money to cover the cost of the program will come from the nearly $1 million the school will receive from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Monday’s announcement from EGCC is more good news for higher education in our region. Last week, the Franciscan University of Steubenville announced its Step in Faith program, which will cover the remainder of tuition costs, after scholarships and grants have been applied, for the fall semester for all incoming full-time undergraduate students enrolled in its on-campus programs.

Eastern Gateway’s summer semester offers students and displaced workers a chance to get caught up and move forward, according to Michael Geoghegan, the school’s interim president, who added the programs are affordable and accessible without “sacrificing any of the rigor students, staff, faculty and employers expect.”

That it comes as no cost to students is important, and the EGCC administration and board deserve to be commended for working to make the summer guarantee program possible.

 

Business Journal Daily

https://businessjournaldaily.com/egcc-to-recharge-east-side-federal-street/

YOUNGSTOWN, OH — After Eastern Gateway Community College completes the purchase of the three buildings it uses in downtown Youngstown, the institution will be able to take on a larger role in the revitalization of the district.

Many universities today are changing their landscape to appeal to students and populations, said Art Daly, vice president of EGCC’s Youngstown campus at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber’s Good Morning, Mahoning County! breakfast. EGCC looks to follow suit, with planned upgrades including new greenspace, improved lighting, more outdoor seating and new walkways, he said.

A $13 million state bond issuance would fund the project, which Daly expects would take two to three years to complete after the buildings are purchased, he said during the chamber breakfast. EGCC currently leases Thomas Humphries Hall at 101 E. Federal Street, the Health and Workforce Development Center at 101 E. Boardman Street and its student services center at 139 E. Boardman Street.

“We’re getting close,” he said. “We’re finalizing a lot of things to get the purchase of the three buildings completed. Once that’s done, we can start looking at how we’re going to upgrade the downtown area. We are going to recharge the East Side Federal.”

More than 20,000 students are enrolled at Eastern Gateway, Daly said, either at its campuses in Youngstown and Steubenville or through online courses. In 2019, EGCC’s enrollment increased by 47%.

EGCC’s nursing program continues to flourish, he said, and EGCC is partnering with Mercy Health, Salem Regional Medical Center and Southwoods to “stay on the cutting edge.

“We’re here to keep students here and engaged with the community,” he said.

Rendering shows some of the upgrades planned for EGCC.

Erin O’Donnell, director of partnerships and community relations at America Makes, started her speech at the breakfast program by explaining what America Makes is – an additive manufacturing and 3D printing hub.

“We’ve created an additive manufacturing ecosystem and in this ecosystem is Youngstown State University, Eastgate, MCCTC, YBI, the chamber and Brite,” O’Donnell said. “What we’re all doing is driving Youngstown’s additive manufacturing roots.”

Also at the Regional Chamber’s breakfast, Mahoning County Commissioner Dave Ditzler touched on the Campus of Care project at the former Youngstown Developmental Center in Austintown. The site has been purchased and the campus will be able to provide 150 new jobs, he said. Its staff will also be able to serve nearly 500 people daily, he said.

A $300,000 grant through the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board was one of the initial investments in the campus, as well as funding through the state of Ohio, Ditzler said. To get the former center up to date, $1.5 million will have to be invested, he said.

“There is such a need for assistance with the disabled,” Ditzler said. “When the facility shut down, it displaced so many people and we got so many calls from family members. We looked at this as an opportunity to keep it on a campus-like setting and provide wraparound services from different organizations that all work together.”

The Campus of Care will be completed by the end of the year, Ditzler said.

With an aging community in Mahoning County, commissioners partnered with the Area on Aging 11 Inc. to try to bring in new funding to help keep the elderly in their homes longer, Ditzler said. In addition, a regional 911 system was created and the county has merged with the Mental Health and Recovery Board to fight addiction, he said.

“There’s a lot of good things we work hand in hand with local communities and political subdivisions in the county to make things happen for all of us,” Ditzler said.

Pictured above: Art Daly, vice president of Eastern Gateway Community College’s Youngstown campus, discusses proposed upgrades to the campus at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber’s Good Morning, Mahoning County! breakfast.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.

Business Journal Daily

https://businessjournaldaily.com/eastern-gateway-gets-836k-grant-for-training-center/

STEUBENVILLE, OH — Eastern Gateway Community College will use an $836,332 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to establish a new training center.

The Tri-State Gateway to Growth Training Center will serve a 12-county region in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, Eastern Gateway President Jimmie Bruce said Tuesday after the funding was announced.

Funding is from ARC’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization – or Power – grant program. Power grants target federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy production.

The center will provide workforce training in advanced manufacturing (including welding, machining, electronics, pneumatics, hydraulics and industrial maintenance), logistics and energy industries, Bruce said.

“The area served by the new center has experienced declines in coal mining employment as well as the closure of a coal-fired power plant,” he continued. “Over the three-year grant period at least 650 workers/trainees and 120 students will obtain new positions or enhance their current ones, and six businesses will be improved by the training model.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson hailed the grant award in separate news releases.

“When I visited Eastern Gateway Community College this summer, I heard from students and faculty about the need to provide more people with access to the technical training and certification needed to fill the jobs that are available in today’s economy,” Portman said.

“The Tri-State Gateway Growth Training Center will do just that, and thanks to this ARC Power grant this important facility can be constructed more quickly,” he continued. “These funds will help ensure southeastern Ohioans have the opportunity to pursue the skills necessary for the jobs available today.”

The grant to Eastern Gateway was among several awarded in Johnson’s congressional district.

“This funding will support projects designed to create jobs and spur economic opportunity by investing in broadband expansion, substance abuse recovery, manufacturing, tourism, and other industry sectors,” Johnson, R-6 Ohio, said. He called ARC “a vital source of critical funding for important projects in our region” and he thanked the commission for its support.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.