The U.S. Department of Education has dealt a significant blow to union members by terminating the free tuition program previously provided to them and their families. The focus of this decision was primarily on one institution, Eastern Gateway Community College. The Department informed the college that it must cease enrolling students in its unique online free college program for union members due to violations of federal financial aid rules. Apparently, the college was using some students’ Pell Grant funds to subsidize the enrollment of other students who did not qualify for federal aid.

In response to the situation, Eastern Gateway Community College released a press release explaining the outcome of their ongoing negotiations with the U.S. Department of Education regarding the Free College Benefit and the Gateway Guarantee. As a result of these negotiations, they regretfully announced that new students starting in the Fall Semester of 2023 would no longer have access to the Free College Benefit and the Gateway Guarantee. The status of continuing students from the Spring and Summer semesters of 2023 was still uncertain pending further clarification from the Department.

The press release assured Pell-eligible students that they could complete their academic degrees with minimal or no out-of-pocket expenses. However, for those who were not eligible for Pell Grants and if the U.S. Department of Education didn’t provide a transition period for the Free College program, the college had restructured tuition and fees in place to allow students to continue their high-quality programs at a competitive cost.

The college emphasized its commitment to assisting students in graduating with little to no outstanding debt despite the changes to the tuition benefits. They provided contact information for their financial aid help desk, admission counselors, and advisors to address any questions or concerns students might have about the impact of these changes on their education. EGCC’s financial aid help desk, admission counselors and advisors are here to help you with your questions at 833-465-2505. You should see your new tuition and fees on your student account by July 7, 2023.

Overall, the termination of the Free College Benefit and the Gateway Guarantee program was a disappointing development for union members and their families, affecting their access to affordable education opportunities at Eastern Gateway Community College.