Listed here are helpful answers to some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the Free College benefit and the current online program offerings. For more information or additional support, call the Student Resource Center (who manages the Free College Benefit) at 888-590-9009 or email online@FreeCollegeBenefit.org.
What Is The Free College Benefit?
The Free College Benefit is an investment in you and your future. With the Free College Benefit, union members and their families do not have to pay out of pocket for any tuition, fees, or e-books to earn select degrees and certificates at Eastern Gateway Community College and other participating colleges resulting in cost savings of thousands of dollars!
The benefit works as a “last-dollar scholarship,” or grant or waiver, that is intended to fill the gap between any federal, state, or employer education grants you receive and the cost of tuition, fees, and e-books for certain online degree programs at Eastern Gateway Community College (and other partner colleges). It does require an investment of your time and attention!
Who is Eligible, are My Family Members Eligible?
The following are eligible:
• Dues-paying labor union members of participating unions
• Unemployed, furloughed, laid-off union members
• Retired union members
• Widows/widowers of union members
• Spouses and domestic partners of union members
• Children of union members, including stepchildren and children-in-law (no age limits)
• Grandchildren of union members
• Financial dependents of union members
• Siblings of union members
• Parents of union members
Is This For Real?
It is for real and a valuable benefit for union members and their families! Thousands of students have been taking advantage of this great opportunity since Fall 2015.
Tell Me About Eastern Gateway Community College.
Eastern Gateway Community College is a public, open-access college with campuses in Steubenville and Youngstown, OH. The college is part of the University System of Ohio and governed by the Ohio Department of Higher Education. EGCC is committed to innovation and increasing quality educational opportunities for students all across the country. The faculty and staff of EGCC is union-represented by the Ohio Education Association.
Which Programs Are Offered Through The Scholarship Program?
For detailed program information, please visit www.egcc.edu
Associate Degree and Certificate Programs offered through Free College:
• Associate of Arts
• Criminal Justice
• Teacher Education Degree
• Patient Home Navigator
• Professional Office Management
• Business Management Degree
• Focus options include:
• Cyber Security
• Data Science
• Digital and Social Media
• Healthcare Management
• Hospitality: Food and Beverage Management
• Hospitality: Hotel and Event Management
• Human Resources Management
• Information Systems
• Labor Studies
• Programming & Development
What Do I Do Next?
Submit an inquiry form online and begin the application process. You may also call 888-590-9009 to talk to an admission counselor, or email online@FreeCollegeBenefit.org.
First, click on the Request more information button at the bottom of this page and complete the form with your contact and union information (for membership verification).
How Do I Qualify For The Free College Benefit?
EGCC is an open-access college, which means you only need to have a high school degree or GED equivalent to be accepted to most EGCC degree programs. EGCC will review the admissions application and other documentation and formally accept the student into the College.
To receive the Free College Benefit, participating unions’ members (or their family members) who want to enroll in EGCC’s online programs will need to complete the following steps after completing the inquiry form on the website.
Members can also call the Student Resource Center at 888-590-9009 or email online@FreeCollegeBenefit.org for assistance.
• Apply to EGCC.
• Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and submit any required verification to the college. Any grant award must be applied to the tuition, fees and e-book charges at EGCC.
• Agree to use any employer tuition assistance.
• Verify High School or GED completion by submitting proof of High School graduation or GED completion to EGCC.
Students who do not complete the FAFSA and any required verification do not qualify for the Free College Benefit and will need to make payment arrangements with EGCC.
Students who are currently in default on their Federal student loans may receive the Free College Benefit but must get permission from EGCC’s financial aid office.
Why Do I Have To Complete The FAFSA If It’s Free?
The Free College Benefit is a last-dollar scholarship. The “last dollar” scholarship means it covers the difference in what you have available for grants in state or federal aid, or employer assistance, and the tuition, fees, and e-books at EGCC. Therefore, you are required to use any federal or state aid, and any employer assistance, you may receive toward your tuition, fees and e-books first, and then the Free College Benefit covers the rest. The amount of the benefit can only be determined after you complete the FAFSA. You will not be asked to take out any loans.
I Am Confused By The FAFSA. Can You Help?
EGCC is happy to answer any questions you may have. Students are invited to call 888-590-9009, or to review the information on the US Department of Education FAFSA website (www.FAFSA.gov), where there are many resources for students. Please plan to allow an average of 30 minutes for completion.
I Have Additional Expenses (Need A New Computer, School Supplies, Etc.). May I Take Out A Federal Student Loan To Cover These Costs?
This must be assessed by the college’s Office of Financial Aid. If you are utilizing the Free College Benefit, you may request to borrow up to $1,000 in Federal Student loans (if eligible) to help offset additional education-related expenses. While you may qualify for Federal Loan funding in excess of $1,000, should you elect to request more, you will forfeit your eligibility for the Free College Benefit*. This policy aligns with a primary goal of the Free College Program, which is to ensure that students are able to earn a degree with minimal or zero loan debt upon completion of their program.
*Rare and extenuating circumstances will be considered by the college as an exception to this policy. In order to be considered for a one-time exception, you must submit a request in writing to the college’s Financial Aid Office. The request must be signed, dated, and state (in detail): 1) the reason you are seeking an exception to the $1,000 loan limit, 2) the loan amount that you are requesting, and 3) an itemization of anticipated expenses that you intend to make with the additional funding. All requests will be reviewed by the college’s financial aid office, and if circumstances warrant, approved by the college for a one-time authorization for funds in excess of the program loan limit ($1,000). Please note that an expense such as ‘needing a new computer’ may be covered by the existing program loan limit, and is not considered as part of an extenuating circumstance exception.
What Is FAFSA Verification And Do I Need To Complete Verification?
The U.S. Department of Education selects approximately 30% of all FAFSA applicants for a process called verification. Verification is how the Department of Education requires EGCC to confirm the accuracy of the data reported (or not reported) on an individual student’s FAFSA. During the verification process, information reported on the FAFSA is checked for accuracy against documentation submitted by the student and/or their parents. An application may be selected for verification at any time throughout the award year. Compliance with this verification procedure is required to remain eligible for the Free College Benefits.
What Do You Mean By Domestic Partner And Financial Dependents?
Your union defines who can take advantage of the scholarship and your union verifies membership and eligibility.
A financial dependent is someone for whom you have financial responsibility. Neither your union nor EGCC assesses the level of financial dependence or the definition of a domestic partner. Family members do not have to live with you and there is no age limit for the scholarship.
Can I Receive The Free College Benefit At Eastern Gateway Community College While Attending Another Institution?
If you are an Ohio resident you may receive the last-dollar scholarship at EGCC while utilizing your federal/state grants at another institution.
If you are not an Ohio resident and you qualify for federal or state grants you must use those at EGCC in order to receive the last-dollar scholarship. If a student elects to use their federal/state grants at another institution they may still enroll at EGCC but will not receive the Free College last-dollar scholarship.
How Do I Maintain My Free College Benefit?
Once you receive the Free College benefit to cover the cost of tuition, fees, and e-books at Eastern Gateway Community College, you must comply with all academic, conduct, attendance, and financial aid policies as required by the college, the state of Ohio, and the U.S. Department of Education in order to continue to receive the benefit for each semester in which you enroll in classes toward your degree. You must also continue to be a full dues-paying member of your union (or an eligible family member). You are also required to complete the FAFSA, including any required verification, for every new academic year.
Are There Any Academic Requirements To Receive The Benefit?
Your previous academic record does not affect whether you initially can receive the Free College benefit.
However, once you are enrolled as a student at EGCC, the college requires that students meet Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP). An abbreviated summary of the SAP policy is below. The full definition of this can be found on EGCC’s website, in the catalog, or from your advisor.
Satisfactory Academic Progress: (SAP)
A student must maintain at least a cumulative GPA of 2.0 and successfully complete 67% of courses attempted in every semester. Please see EGCC.edu for more information.
What If I Am Not Successful In My Course or Program?
As long as you complete all required verification for FAFSA and you attend and participate in your classes as required by the instructor and the college, the Free College Benefit will cover the cost of your tuition, fees, and e-books at EGCC (after any available federal, state or employer grants are applied) and you will not owe any money back even if you do not pass your courses.
Do I Have To Pay Any Money Back If I Don’t Complete My Class Or Program?
You will not be responsible for any bill as long as you are deemed eligible by your union for the Free College Benefit and EGCC has your current year FAFSA and any required verification forms, and you follow the rules of the college, you won’t incur a bill for your tuition, fees, or books. You don’t have to stay with the union or your job for any set time period – you just need to be a member in good standing or an covered family member at the time you start your classes. You don’t have to pay back the benefit even if you move out of the union or leave your job.
What If I Don’t Want To Use My Grants For This?
The Free College Benefit is a last-dollar scholarship; therefore, you are required to first use any federal or state aid you may receive toward your tuition, fees, and e-books. If you do not want to use your federal or state aid, you can still enroll in EGCC, but you will not be able to receive the Free College last-dollar scholarship to cover the difference for tuition, fees, or e-books.
Will My Union See The Information On My FAFSA?
Only the U.S. Department of Education and EGCC will know your grant status. Your privacy is protected.
What If I Do Not Qualify For Any Federal Financial Aid?
Even if it is determined that due to income levels, the student is not eligible for federal or state financial aid, or not eligible for employer grants or tuition reimbursement benefits, a last-dollar benefit will be applied to any remaining balance for tuition and fees at EGCC.
The cost of e-books is included, so students will have no costs other than internet access and equipment (computers, software, etc.).
Students can also call directly to the U.S. Department of Education toll-free at 800-621-3115 for more information on completing the FAFSA and federal financial aid.
What If I Don’t Have Tuition Reimbursement Through My Work?
Then the last-dollar benefit will still apply.
What If I Do Have Tuition Reimbursement?
Please check with your employer as to the details on how it works. We will work with you to ensure compliance.
Do I Have To Apply Any Other Scholarships Or Benefits For Which I Am Eligible To My Tuition, Fees Or E-Books At EGCC?
If you are eligible for Veteran’s education benefits or tuition reimbursement through your employer, we request that you apply those benefits toward your enrollment at EGCC.
What If I Graduated In A Foreign Country?
You will need to have your transcript evaluated and translated by an official education evaluation service. Of example is the service World Education Services, www.WES.Org. Any related cost for the transcript is not covered by the benefit. If you have difficulties obtaining your transcript, please give us a call to discuss your individual situation.
Can I Take Just One Class?
To be eligible for the benefit, which is a form of financial aid, you must enroll in a qualifying degree or certificate program at EGCC. However, the programs are flexible, so you can take one class at a time.
Why Is My Union Offering This Benefit?
One of union members’ biggest concerns is the cost of college. Today, only half of Americans who begin college will be able to finish, largely due to financial and work/life barriers. With this benefit, unions have found a way to help members and their families begin college without financial worry.
Why Are Unions Partnering With Eastern Gateway Community College?
This program started successfully with labor unions in Ohio. The demand from members was so great that more unions wanted to provide the benefit to union members and their families. EGCC, which is organized by the Ohio Education Association, is committed to helping adult and returning students be successful in earning their degree, which can lead to increased career opportunities.
Can I Use This Benefit At A College Other Than EGCC?
The Benefit can only be used at participating schools and programs. (Currently, Eastern Gateway Community College, Central State University, Paul Quinn College and Franklin University. Each college determines acceptance to their school.)
I Already Have An Associate Degree. Does This Benefit Extend To A Bachelor’s Degree?
The Benefit does now extend to certain Bachelor completion programs at participating schools, including Central State University in Ohio.
I’m Worried I Won’t Have Time For College Work.
The Free College Benefit allows you to take as little as one course at a time, or attend full time. There is not a minimum credit requirement to receive the Benefit.
EGCC’s coursework is rigorous and meets the high standards of the state of Ohio. We understand that not everyone can meet the same schedule. Therefore, EGCC’s highly qualified instructors provide a flexible, online learning format that gives students the opportunity to further their education while fulfilling responsibilities to both family and your career.
Classes are offered every 8 weeks during the semester.
Is Online Learning For Me?
Online learning has helped many students overcome the scheduling challenges of completing their degree. However, the format is not for everyone. The following self-assessment, developed by Miami of Ohio University, may help you understand if online courses will work for you.
Even as an online student at EGCC, you will have a support system available to aid in your success, including access to your instructor through office hours and direct communication, academic advisors, an online writing center, and free access to online tutors.
I Know My Union Is A Great Advocate For Me And I Want To Officially Join The Union. How Do I Do That?
Please contact your union shop steward or call the local union office.
What If I Leave My Union?
You shouldn’t leave your union-they are providing you a Free College opportunity! That said, if the circumstances are out of your control, EGCC won’t charge you for your current classes. You may be able to continue to the next term with the benefit, depending on your situation. If you are laid off, your union wants to ensure you continue to have the opportunity to complete your education. Eligibility verification happens with your union, not with EGCC.
What Are Some Of The Grounds For Termination Of The Free College Benefit?
Your union determines eligibility based on your membership status.
The Free College Benefit represents an investment from EGCC in you and your academic future. EGCC may terminate your scholarship if you have:
o Refused to complete FAFSA or first use your available grant money.
o Failed to maintain satisfactory academic progress.
o Failed to meet EGCC’s code of conduct.