STEUBENVILLE – The Higher Education Commission put Eastern Gateway Community College on probation on Tuesday, a move President Mike Geoghegan said was disappointing but not unexpected.
The change does not affect the college’s accreditation, school officials noted. It also does not affect student financial aid, a student’s ability to move on to other institutions or other degrees.
While student life will continue as usual, behind the scenes, Geoghegan said the college will be making operational changes – in many cases refining existing processes – to address HLC concerns.
In a press release announcing the HLC’s action, college officials said the accreditation agency “The main concerns are centered on assessment, data collection and analysis, HR record keeping and ensuring that we can document the great work we are already doing.”
Geoghegan said the professors had already been informed and â€œThey are 100% behind us, there is no problem there. “
“Our faculty-administration relationship (relationship) is very good”, he said. â€œObviously we’re not in some kind of financial difficulty – a lot of the things you normally see in probation cases aren’t here. In reality, it’s more about the type of process that is in place. We’ve grown exponentially, that’s not what they’re used to – we’re an anomaly, an outlier for HLC. They are used to going into status quo organizations.
Geoghegan took office as interim chairman in January 2020 after his predecessor, Jimmie Bruce, was fired by the board for what he called “Dereliction of duty and inappropriate management”. At the time, the chairman of the board, James Gasior, quoted a “Lack of leadership, especially in the past five months” and said Bruce had stopped responding to inquiries and was not attending staff meetings.
Before Bruce’s ouster, faculty and staff had taken a vote of no confidence and presented a list of who they felt to be “Worthy of mourning” concerns to the board.
Geoghegan said the HLC’s findings stem from the uproar of the transition: The HLC mid-cycle review process included The Assurance Case, a virtual on-site visit during which the institution must demonstrate how it meets the accreditation criteria of the HLC and the peer review team; the report and meeting of the Institutional Action Council in August; and an HLC board meeting last week.
“We were way behind the ball eight”, he said. â€œBy the time we made our insurance case, this should have been something that was going on for the past 3.5 years, all the data, all the evidence (collected), but it just wasn’t not here. We had to start putting it all together.
He said the leadership team has stabilized and is actively addressing HLC’s core concerns, starting with the hiring of a vice president of institutional effectiveness who has put in place a working group, collaboration between administration and faculty, “So all the evidence they claim they don’t have, we’re going to sit in digital storage areas, so next time (when they ask for it) it’s in the box, we can edit it and that’s it.” is ready to use. “
“A lot of the things we were doing might not have been documented to HLC’s satisfaction, but it was about process, we were doing it.” Geoghegan said. â€œBut now it will all be documented and digitized. They just want to see that you have this document in this folder.
â€œYou may have the best statistics on students who find jobs, start their careers, graduate from four-year universities, or get their masters, but that’s not part of their accreditation criteria. They are a little too focused on the process.
Geoghegan pointed out when he joined EGCC in 2017, the number of registrations stood at around 8,300.
“We’re six times the size right now, with around 48,000 (students)”, he said. â€œIt’s a lot of growth and, really, our student success metrics are very, very strong in terms of course completion and student retention. A very good external indicator is how we managed our state subsidy … we increased state aid by 27.4%, and that is (due to a) combination of enrollments and student success. “
He also noted the relationship of administrations with professors and staff “is probably the strongest he’s been in a long time.”