Embattled community college pauses enrollment indefinitely

Eastern Gateway Community College will pause registration and enrollment beyond spring semester due to financial problems, the college and the Ohio Department of Higher Education announced.

Students registered for spring semester will be able to finish their coursework. Those who are graduating this semester won’t be affected, but students who want to register for summer and fall semesters will need to do so at another institution.

“We have a plan to ensure students finish this semester as normal,” said Jim Gasior, chair of Eastern Gateway’s Board of Trustees. “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.”

The college, located in northeastern Ohio, is working with Youngstown State University and some other community colleges, including Stark State, Cuyahoga Community College, Washington State College of Ohio, Belmont College and Hocking College, to allow students to complete their degrees.

“Student access to high-quality and affordable educational experiences and workforce advancement opportunities that contribute to economic mobility have long been pillars of our mission at YSU,” said Bill Johnson, President of Youngstown State University. “This arrangement is well aligned with those pillars and we look forward to serving the students and employers across the region now and into the future.”

Eastern Gateway has been under scrutiny for years from both the state and federal levels.

In January, the Ohio Auditor of State executed a search warrant at the college over financial irregularities. The agency said the January action was separate from the August 2023 indictments of former college administrators, when former Eastern Gateway president Jimmie Bruce and former college vice president and chief of staff James Miller were accused of stealing thousands of dollars while in office and charged with multiple felonies.

But Ohio Auditor Keith Faber also said the investigation is “looking into matters that both have already been charged and are being prosecuted.”

Additionally, the college is under a process called heighted cash monitoring through the U.S. Department of Education, which delays federal funds to the college, meaning the college does not have as much cash coming in.

“Due to the uncertainty of funding beyond this semester, Eastern Gateway has made the prudent decision to pause student registration until this process is resolved,” the Ohio Department of Higher Education said in a release.

The college formerly offered free classes through a partnership with Career Plus, which enrolled students related to specific labor unions in tuition-free classes. But the Department of Education shut down the program in 2022 because the agency said Pell Grant students were given an unequal amount of money compared to students who did not qualify for Pell Grants. Eastern Gateway stopped offering the program in fall 2023.

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