YOUNGSTOWN - Juan Oquendo said he enrolled in Eastern Gateway Community College's criminal justice program to make a career change.
The 52-year-old Youngs-town man, a former landscaper, said he previously attended Youngstown State University. This fall, he started attending classes at the community college's Valley Center downtown Youngstown.
"It's a good opportunity, especially for someone who might be older and looking for a change," he said.
On Monday, Laura Meeks, Eastern Gateway president, stopped by the Valley Center to announce the new Half-Off Grant that she said will help eligible students offset their college costs. She said the grant is being offered to celebrate the opening of the college's new Valley Center.
"It's one more avenue to provide students with more assistance, to enable them to pursue the education many of them need to advance at their current jobs or obtain a new job somewhere else."
Meeks said many Eastern Gateway students are employed and some are already skilled.
Tribune Chronicle / Virginia Shank
Robert Raupach teaches elementary algebra Monday to students at Eastern Gateway in Youngstown.
Photo by Virginia Shank
"But they need that piece of paper, that certificate, diploma or degree to get them where they hope, where they need to be," she said.
The new grant, a one-time opportunity being offered with the spring semester, provides new students with a 50 percent tuition discount providing they take a minimum of six credits at the Valley Center. They must apply for the free application for Federal Student Aid and use awarded financial aid before the Half-Off Grant can be applied. The grant will cover half of the tuition charges for new students during the spring 2013 semester only.
"Eastern Gateway is thrilled with the reception it has received in downtown youngstown and throughout the Mahoning Valley as the college expands and reaches more and more students,'' Meeks said.
Eastern Gateway Community College is offering a one-time financial aid benefit for the spring 2013 semester. To qualify a student must:
Be high school graduates or have a GED
Be a new student to Eastern Gateway
Take a minimum of six credit hours at the Valley Center.
File for FAFSA and use available aid before the Half-Off Grant applies.
The college moved its Valley Center from Choffin Career and Technical Center in Youngstown to Federal Plaza East this fall.
Meeks said enrollment at the Valley Center has grown by 77 percent, with more than 500 students enrolled and 200 programs available.
Based in Jefferson County, Eastern Gateway has branches in Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties.