Future of EGCC campus still in limbo

STEUBENVILLE — The Jefferson County commissioners hinted Tuesday they could have a battle on their hands to regain title to Eastern Gateway Community College’s Steubenville campus.

Commissioners met behind closed doors with their legal team and county auditors, emerging 70 minutes later to designate Bricker Graydon to represent them in any legal proceedings pertaining to the pending dissolution of the community college — including the disposition of the Steubenville campus, which the county had deeded to EGCC’s predecessor, Jefferson Technical Institute, in 1967. The deed included a reverter clause returning the property to the county should it cease being used for educational purposes.

Commissioners had previously voted to retain Bricker Graydon to research issues surrounding the Eastern Gateway property, including who would be saddled with EGCC’s debt in the event the college dissolves, but Commissioner Dave Maple said it was prudent to update the motion to clearly state the Columbus-based law firm’s future role since two months had passed since the original motion was voted on.

Taking part in the meeting in addition to the three commissioners were Assistant Prosecutor Shawn Blake, Auditor E.J. Conn and Assistant Auditor Mike Warren. Bricker Graydon attorneys participated through Zoom.

After adjourning, commissioners refused to comment on specifics, though Maple, with the approval of Commissioners Eric Timmons and Tony Morelli, said that, “We were made aware of pending federal litigation potentially involving the property and we are (taking) all the legal action we can to protect the citizens’ interests.”

They declined to elaborate.

EGCC’s board of trustees last month announced the school will dissolve by Nov. 1, capping a two-year battle with the U.S. Department of Education over how it had been using federal student aid dollars. DOE argued the college was essentially propping up its immensely popular free college program with PELL grant money intended to help economically challenged students pay for their education and withheld millions in federal aid reimbursements to the school, leaving trustees to twice turn to the state controlling board for funds to help the college meet its obligations.

In February, after EGCC’s board of trustees announced enrollment was being paused while they figured out financing, commissioners had made it clear protecting taxpayers — both in terms of reclaiming title to the property as well as figuring out what would be done with the $1.3 million a year special levy that voters had approved years before EGCC’s problems surfaced — had to be a priority. The levy, primarily used to cover tuition for Jefferson County high school graduates, expires in 2026.

Youngstown State University has plans to open a Steubenville campus this year, but no decision has been made about where that will be located. On Monday, Bill Johnson, YSU’s president, said he would like that to be at EGCC’s existing campus and acknowledged there would be a process to go through.


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