Eastern Gateway Community College
PROJECT: Creation of a new community college
Between constructing a campus, applying for accreditation and developing degree programs, creating a college can take years and cost millions of dollars.
Ohio higher education officials had neither two years ago when they decided to expand the state’s community college system into the Mahoning Valley. So they hatched a plan to start with an existing community college, forge partnerships with area career centers, lease space from a local hospital and cobble together a curriculum using programs offered at some of the state's other 22 community colleges.
The result is Eastern Gateway Community College, which served 3,010 students during its inaugural 2009-2010 academic year. School officials expect enrollment to swell by 5 percent overall this summer with much of the increase due to new students from Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties.
“We are starting to reach many of the students who have not had access to higher education,” says Eastern Gateway president Laura Meeks.
Eastern Gateway’s story starts in March 2008 with the release of a 10-year plan to increase college enrollment throughout Ohio. Among the specific goals are to locate low-cost associate degree programs within 30 miles of every resident.
While the Mahoning Valley has been served by Youngstown State University and three Kent State University branch campuses, it was the largest swath in the state without a two-year college. Ohio Board of Regents chancellor Eric Fingerhut wanted to change that.
“The chancellor said, ‘We don’t have the funds to invest in bricks and mortar, and actually I’d rather see that money invested in people. Can’t we utilize some existing facilities, keep operating costs down and offer programs close to where people live and sleep and work?’ ” recalls Shara Davis, director of Lorain County Community College’s Public Services Institute.
An early move was to absorb Jefferson County Community College in Steubenville, which gave the new school instant accreditation. Eastern Gateway then inked partnerships with four regional career centers, which were already training workers but couldn’t award college credit. Eastern Gateway shares tuition revenue with the facilities. Not having construction debt to pay down has also kept costs down. At $99 per credit hour, Eastern Gateway’s tuition is among Ohio’s lowest.
College organizers also applied the revenue-sharing model while building Eastern Gateway’s curriculum, offering programs developed at other community colleges. It could take four years to implement a program to train registered nurses. But by adopting Lorain County Community College’s courses, Eastern Gateway cut through the red tape and immediately began training much-needed nurses in Mahoning Valley.
Similarly, the Lorain County college’s accredited welding program has been applied to training already offered at the Trumbull Career & Technical Center. Plans are under way to offer training in new economic sectors, including alternative energy and green building.
Lorain County Workforce Development Agency, Lorain County Community College, Lorain County JVS, Employment netWork
PROJECT: Development of the Make Your Layoff Payoff program
Alliance for Working Together and Lakeland Community College
PROJECT: Development of a degree program that aligns with the National Association of Manufacturers’ credentialing system