Eastern Gateway Community College to withdraw from accreditation process – Education News

Eastern Gateway Community College to withdraw from accreditation process – 24 Global News | Education News

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Dive Brief:

  • Trustees at Eastern Gateway Community College voted last week to withdraw the financially distressed Ohio college from the accreditation process, signaling its likely closure.
  • Eastern Gateway does not have the funding or capacity to continue the Higher Learning Commission’s evaluation process, per the board’s resolution. HLC has had Eastern Gateway on probation since November 2021 and cannot extend that status beyond November 2024. This means the college would need to address all outstanding issues by November or lose accreditation.
  • Eastern Gateway’s trustees did not express interest in seeking approval from a different federally recognized accreditor during last week’s meeting. Colleges cannot access Title IV funding without accreditation, and many institutions cannot afford to operate without federal financial aid. 

Dive Insight:

In 2015, Eastern Gateway launched a “free college” policy for students who are affiliated with labor unions. The last-dollar program, which covered tuition costs after other financial aid had been applied, gave the community college a huge boost in enrollment.

In fall 2014, Eastern Gateway enrolled 3,182 students, according to federal data. Five years later, its student body had surged to 25,648. The previously small community college soared to 45,173 enrollees by fall 2021. 

But in 2022, the U.S. Department of Education alleged Eastern Gateway’s program illegally overcharged students with Pell Grants compared to those without the grants. The agency placed the college on Heightened Cash Monitoring 2 status, forcing it to pay for students’ federal financial aid out of pocket before seeking reimbursement.

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Shortly thereafter, Eastern Gateway sued the department. The college ultimately dropped its lawsuit in August as part of a tentative settlement and ended its free college program.

But the federal funding issues stemming from the yearslong legal battle hurt Eastern Gateway’s financial viability, the Ohio Department of Higher Education said in February. 

Last month, the college’s trustees voted to stop enrollment for semesters beyond spring 2024, framing it as a temporary change. The state’s education department Monday directed inquiries to the February statement it released when Eastern Gateway halted enrollment. 

The pause was meant to allow Eastern Gateway to evaluate its options and resolve ongoing financial difficulties, the department said at the time.

Eastern Gateway has until November 2024 to meet accreditation standards and get off of probation, and HLC’s website indicates it is scheduled to visit the college’s campus in May.

HLC on Monday said it had no comment on the matter, and Eastern Gateway did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Students on track to graduate this spring will still be able to do so, Ohio’s higher education department said. But as part of its enrollment halt, Eastern Gateway began creating teach-out plans with nearby community colleges, as well as with Youngstown State University.

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