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Eastern Gateway Community College halts enrollment amid ongoing financial troubles

A screenshot of the Feb. 21 Eastern Gateway Community College Board of Trustees meeting, where the board approved a motion to halt enrollment.
Eastern Gateway Community College
A screenshot of the Feb. 21 Eastern Gateway Community College Board of Trustees meeting, where the board approved a motion to halt enrollment.

Eastern Gateway Community College is pausing registration and enrollment for the immediate future due to ongoing financial troubles.

The Ohio Department of Higher Education in a news release Wednesday said students from the troubled college will finish out the current semester, then anyone continuing classes will be transferred to Youngstown State University and other nearby community colleges, where their credits will be honored.

The decision to pause enrollment, made by Eastern Gateway's Board of Trustees during a meeting Wednesday, comes after increased financial scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Education, which has delayed the "typical flows" of federal funding due to a process known as "heightened cash flow monitoring," according to the release.

“We have a plan to ensure students finish this semester as normal,” Jim Gasior, chair of Eastern Gateway’s Board of Trustees, said in the release. “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 Ohio Auditor and other law enforcement agencies executed a search warrant at the college - which has locations in Youngstown and Steubenville - in January over financial irregularities. Former College President Jimmie Bruce and former vice president James Miller were indicted last summer over allegations they stole thousands of dollars from the college, although those charges were dismissed "without prejudice" in January, meaning charges could be re-filed again, WKBN reported.

The college had already been ordered to halt enrollment temporarily last year over possible violation of federal law, in connection with how it handled student scholarshipsthrough its "Free College Benefit Program,"which has since been cancelled.

The Board of Trustees also approved cuts to several dozen staff last month after a sharp drop in enrollment that accompanied the end of that program, from 15,000 to 9,000 students, WKBN reported.

The Ohio Department of Higher Education release notes the department and Eastern Gateway developed backup plans with Youngstown State to ensure students' enrollment could continue at other area colleges.

“YSU cares deeply about the people in our region and we are honored to work with Eastern Gateway and the Ohio Department of Higher Education to support students in this manner,” YSU President Bill Johnson said in the release.. “We are pleased to ensure that affected students have the opportunity to register for classes at Youngstown State University. 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.”

Ohio community colleges that will welcome Eastern Gateway students include Stark State College, Belmont College, Washington State College of Ohio, Cuyahoga Community College, and Hocking College, according to the release.

Corrected: February 22, 2024 at 12:11 PM EST
Charges were dismissed against the former college officials "without prejudice," not "with prejudice" as was initially reported.
Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.