STEUBENVILLE AND YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WTRF) —
On Friday, Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC) filed a complaint against the U.S Department of Education (ED) regarding the Free College Benefit program.
This complaint hopes to bring clarification for over thirty-one thousand students awaiting answers regarding future semesters at EGCC, with the Spring 2023 semester opening enrollment in October.
“While we have tried to engage with the agency on their allegations and directive to cease offering the Free College Benefit Program, they have not responded to our questions, have not commented on our proposed modifications, have not released the program review on which their enforcement actions are based, and have not permitted us to take advantage of the administrative appeals process. In order to preserve access to education for our students, we had to take this legal action. We are optimistic that the court will agree that there is a better and more equitable way to address the concerns expressed by ED officials and help us maintain access to higher education for our students,” stated College President Michael Geoghegan.
Eastern Gateway students received the news that the Free College Benefit program, which has been operating for seven years, was not allowed to enroll new students into the program and that current students were able to currently be registered for the Fall semester. Eastern Gateway acknowledges this has been highly disruptive for students planning their degree programs, whose average age is 34 years old, working full time, and raising families while pursuing a degree.
The college also employs hundreds of employees in an economically distressed area of the state. College leaders say they are committed to opening a two-way relationship with federal and state agencies to resolve any outstanding issues to provide continuity and clarity for students.
“Our students are often first-generation college students, trying to better their lives by earning an associate degree. They are going to school to be nurses, social workers, paralegals, and accountants to better our communities. They deserve clear communication, and we will continue to advocate for their futures. We seek to provide answers that will allow our students to focus on their studies,” explained Geoghegan.