EGCC levy questioned

STEUBENVILLE — Jefferson County Auditor E.J. Conn said for now, at least, there won’t be any changes to the voter-approved operating levy for Eastern Gateway Community College.

“As of right now, that has not been determined definitively,” Conn said. “That all depends on, ultimately, what occurs with the school.”

A week ago, EGCC’s board of trustees announced enrollments will be “paused” beyond the spring semester, ceding control over decision-making to the state of Ohio. The decision, announced by the Ohio Department of Higher Education, said it would “provide an opportunity for Eastern Gateway to evaluate options to resolve ongoing financial difficulties partly due to delayed federal funding.”

Those federal funding delays stem from the U.S. Department of Higher Education’s concern that the college was improperly subsidizing online growth associated with the Free College Benefits program with Pell grant funds meant to help income-eligible students get degrees. The government ordered Eastern Gateway to stop offering the FCB program and submit a teach-out agreement, which prompted the college to file suit in federal court in September 2022. After months of legal wrangling, the college earlier this year asked the court to dismiss the suit and allow the two sides to negotiate a settlement, but student aid reimbursements continued to trickle into school coffers.

While the state has not stated its intentions publicly, that announcement has sparked concern over how and where students would be able to finish their degree work in the event the curtain closes on EGCC.

Meanwhile, concerns over the school’s future have raised questions about the levy, which Conn said generates roughly $1.3 million annually.

“We are in discussions with the Ohio Auditor of State’s office on possible scenarios and how that could potentially affect the levy,” Conn said.

He said he’s hoping the levy is removable, “that’s what I am going to push for, anyhow,” in the event the college ceases operation.

He said the 10-year levy expires in 2026.


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