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A great time for higher education

EGCC’s resources will be put to the test as school enjoys jump in enrollment

October 23, 2011
Weirton Daily Times

STEUBENVILLE?- Call it a perfect storm of circumstance, if you will: Eastern Gateway Community College's multi-county expansion is in place, bringing with it a double-digit jump in enrollment, even as the school's resources will be tested as never before by the demand for workers to fill thousands of new, high-paying but highly technical jobs in the oil and gas industry now on the regional horizon.

It is, James Baber said, a great time for education.

"The need is great," said Baber, executive vice president of student and academic affairs. "And if we can supply the right kind of training programs that get people jobs, that's one of the things that will really enrich our growth."

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SURGING ENROLLMENT — Eastern Gateway Community College is enjoying a double-digit jump in enrollment, the result of the college’s expansion into Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. School officials say enrollment is nearing the 2,500 mark for the first time in the school’s history. - Linda Harris

In the two years since Eastern Gateway officially began offering classes in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties as well as Jefferson County, the school has seen enrollments grow: Up 15 percent from a year ago, and Patty Sturch, dean of enrollment management, says the college is nearing the all-important 2,500-student mark for the first time in its history.

"Our growth rate since we joined with the three other counties has been tremendous," Board Chairman Jack Gilmore said. "Our new enrollment numbers are going to be staggering when they come out."

While the school still draws most of its students from Jefferson County, Baber said Mahoning's student population more than doubled from 190 in fall 2010 to nearly 450 this year. Trumbull and Columbiana also saw gains, he said.

"Our population base has changed," he said. "In Jefferson County, we had a population base of about 18,000 - now we have a base of something like 516,000, and only about 12 percent of them have any kind of education past high schoo."

Gilmore said it's a tremendous opportunity for the school and a huge responsiblity, "but it's what we're all about."

"Our goal is to provide an accessible education location and an affordable education," Gilmore said. "Affordability and accessibility, those are our bywords. We've worked hard to get to that position. We've gone out and searched for partners and grants, really made a big effort to try and contribute to the educational needs of our valley."

Gilmore said they're constantly pursuing programming opportunities that make sense for the Upper Ohio Valley. "We're working with organizations involved in Marcellus shale, we're very active in that," he said. "We're also doing work with the Operating Training Committee of Ohio, they're involved in things like water, wastewater and GIS training, which also is important to Marcellus development, and with some green programs involved in the Marcellus shale."

"Now that we're a four-county college, we're going to be able get people certified training or even get them into associate degree program where before we couldn't," he said. "And without education, without training, we're not going to be able to supply workers" to those industries.

"I'm really excited about the Operating Training Committee," he added. "We had 92 enrolled in the last program they put on last month, the GIS training, and as a result, they elected to establish an office in Jefferson County," Gilmore said. "With the partnership, we're going to be able to expand our facilities up there at a rate we didn't expect to have to do this quickly. We have a campus up there now, Valley Center, but we've rapidly outgrown it so we'll be replacing it within a very short period of time."

Baber said the 15 percent bump in the headcount translates to a 9 percent increase in credit hours, well above what they'd expected. "I am happy," he said. "The budget was developed on a 5 percent increase in full-time credithours and we met our goal in the new counties, we doubled our enrollment. The need is really, really great."

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