Youngstown State University's Board of Trustees have passed a resolution to expand academic opportunities across the Mahoning Valley and beyond including help for a "seamless transition" for students displaced from Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC) following an enrollment pause.

The resolution passed during Thursday's quarterly meeting and authorizes university administration to work closely with the Ohio Department of Higher Education and other state agencies to financially administer the transition of Eastern Gateway programs to YSU.

"This would probably be described as an unprecedented circumstance that hasn't happened in Ohio before and that's why we're working through and in a real time way, how to make this work," Dr. Mike Sherman, YSU Vice President for Student Affairs, Institutional Effectiveness and board professional said, "We're working as closely as we can, with various degree programs, to assure that the students can complete as seamlessly as possible, which means if they're graduating this summer, we're going to do everything we can to get them in the courses they need to be in the summer, to complete a degree."

Sherman said he was contacted by the Ohio Department of Higher Education in December to work closely with Eastern Gateway.

Part of the state funding requirements for EGCC to stay afloat through the Spring semester included putting a "transition continuation" plan together.

University President Bill Johnson said the university is committed to making sure all students in the Valley have access to high-quality educational opportunities.

"By no stretch of the imagination, is this changing us to a trade school or a community college," Sherman said, "We're still a four-year degree-granting institution."

"This resolution reflects our dedication to supporting current EGCC students and expanding our academic offerings to better serve the needs of our community and the Upper Ohio Valley," Johnson said.

According to a press release, YSU Trustees believe these actions will not only benefit students, but also create future employment opportunities for YSU for qualified individuals, which will in turn contribute to the economic prosperity in the Valley.

YSU is working with the Department of Higher Education in hopes students will pay the same tuition costs that they pay at Eastern Gateway, but the cost depends on how much of an enrollment increase YSU sees.

Sherman said programs will be an expense to the university but that the expansion means more money from the state down the road. 

"In the long term, more enrollment will help our financial circumstances because we'll have more students enrolled," he said, "and every institution that has more students enrolled benefits from that on the financial side."

In response to the changes, the Ohio Department of Higher Education told 21 News, "At this time, we are working with Eastern Gateway and collaborating campuses to ensure that all students have options to continue their education and complete their degree."

Sherman said a letter will go out to all Eastern Gateway students Thursday or Friday on how they should proceed in the transfer process to YSU.