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Eastern Gateway Community College trustees vote to dissolve college, absent new funding

Eastern Gateway Community College
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Eastern Gateway Community College in downtown Youngstown. The college's trustees said Wednesday it could run out of funding before the end of the current fiscal year at the end of June.

Eastern Gateway Community College's board of trustees voted Wednesday to dissolve the college by May 31 if it cannot get enough funding to continue operations.

Trustees said in a review of the college's finances that the school, which has locations in Steubenville and Youngstown, will likely not have enough cash to continue to the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

"Absent funding, we're going to run out of money to continue to operate the school and to maintain the ability to maintain staff on payroll and to pay vendors," Board Chair James Gasior said.

The college announced in February it would halt all enrollment, forcing thousands of students not graduating in the spring semester to enroll elsewhere. Youngstown State University, Stark State College and other area colleges and universities have stepped in to try to provide continuity for those students in continuing their education.

The college is subject to what the U.S. Department of Education calls "heightened cash monitoring," slowing the flow of federal funding, after it ordered the college to halt a free tuition program that it deemed to violate federal law. The college's enrollment dropped steeply from 15,000 to 9,000 between the fall 2023 and spring 2024 semesters after that change.

The Ohio Auditor and other law enforcement agencies also executed a search warrant at the college 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.

During Wednesday's meeting, trustees voted to enter into "negotiations" with Youngstown State University on "to explore collaboration options for its students and to meet its duties for accreditation and other requirements," Gasior said, although they did not specify what that could look like.

Youngstown State announced in early March that it would look to open a campus in Steubenville as soon as the fall 2024 semester, potentially using Eastern Gateway Community College's facilities, although it said it's still reviewing locations.

Jim Corrin, president of Eastern Gateway's faculty union, said Thursday he's hopeful that Youngstown State can pick up where Eastern Gateway leaves off and continue all or most of its programming, while hiring as much of its staff as possible. Eastern Gateway has roughly 140 faculty and 400 staff total, Corrin has previously said.

"Getting a four-year college that offers certificate programs (in Steubenville), as unfortunate as it is, there is somewhat of a silver lining," he said.

Corrin said the college would likely still be around if it had been more proactive, beginning at least two years ago, in addressing issues brought up by state and federal officials around how it handled its financial aid.

"It's sad, it could have been prevented," he said.

Conor Morris is the education reporter for Ideastream Public Media.