An Eastern Gateway Community College program that offers free courses toward a degree could come to an end.

According to a release from EGCC, the U.S. Department of Education identified concerns about Eastern Gateway's Free College Benefit program as part of a federal financial aid program review.

The division chief of the Department of Education's Federal Student Aid Division sent a letter to Eastern Gateway on July 18th.

The letter said EGCC must stop the Free College Benefit program and not disburse Pell grant money to any new students enrolling in the program until it is redesigned.

Eastern Gateway Community College officials said their annual Title IV compliance over the last four years had not identified any issues with the program.

According to the release, EGCC says they believe the program is fully compliant with federal law, but they will follow the direction of the Department of Education until the issues are resolved.

"EGCC understands that Pell Grant funding is necessary for many students to access higher education," said Senior Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer, Christina Wanat. "We understand that this may cause significant difficulty and hardship for our Free College students, and we are working hard to resolve this for them."

More than 75,000 students participating in the program have enrolled at EGCC since 2015, saving over $175 million.

Eastern Gateway said they are in the process of getting a resolution to the issue with the Department of Education and are seeking help from congressional representatives.

They are also notifying students enrolled in the Free College Benefit Program at EGCC for the Fall 2022 semester to not expect to receive Pell grant funding until the issue is resolved.