Update on Free College Program

Latest Update: August 21, 2023

AFSCME remains committed to helping union families achieve their educational goals. We have worked with Union Plus (UP) to identify schools that offer cost-effective opportunities for our members and their families. Members may visit the College Program page on the AFSCME Advantage website to explore the many affordable, 100% online, associate and bachelor’s degree options that fit their schedule, interests, career goals and budget. AFSCME will continue its work to identify additional educational opportunities for our members.

Update: August 8, 2023

Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC) has been in ongoing negotiations for the past year with the U.S. Department of Education about the Free College Benefit and has fought hard on behalf of all students to continue these benefits. Their ability to gain a preliminary injunction against the Department gained a full year of continued free education for students and members enrolled in the Free College Program. This past spring over 8,500 students completed their studies and graduated. We are incredibly grateful EGCC was able to create the opportunity for those students to complete the program. 

Unfortunately, given the negotiations to date, EGCC is no longer able to offer the Free College Benefit for new students beginning in the Fall semester 2023. Continuing students who were enrolled in classes in the Spring and/or Summer semesters in 2023, may be eligible to receive the last dollar scholarship for one final term, Fall 2023, as long as they are enrolled, registered and assigned classes by August 28, 2023. After Fall semester 2023, the Free College Benefit will officially end and not be available to any student. 

Effective with the Fall 2023 term, EGCC is moving to a new, reduced tuition rate of $138 per credit hour for out-of-state students combined with a consolidated course fee of $30 per credit hour. At a normal course load, this means Pell-eligible students would still attend for no out-of-pocket cost. The in-state tuition rate is either $131 or $137 per credit hour based on the Ohio county of residence.

The Union Plus website and the FAQs related to EGCC have been updated and point to the resources EGCC is making available to current and prospective students. In addition, current students should see the new tuition and fees in their accounts by July 7.

All of the updated college programs are now low-cost models (and free for some based on Pell eligibility).

For members with questions about your specific situation at EGCC, you may speak with admissions counselors and advisors at 833-465-2505. Link to latest EGCC press release.

2023 Summer/Fall Term Program Update: May 23, 2023

Eastern Gateway Community College – In July 2022, the U.S. Department of Education notified AFSCME’s Free College partner, Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC), that the program is in violation of federal rules regarding the administration of the Pell grant program. Both AFSCME and the college disagree with this determination and the college challenged the determination in court. In October, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio issued a preliminary injunction against the Department of Education restricting the Department from enforcing the termination of the Free College program until the Department provides EGCC with an opportunity to challenge the ruling through the Department’s internal procedures. The Court did not decide whether the Free College program is operating in accordance with Pell program rules but made the decision based on the Department’s failure to abide by its own procedures. The Department of Education has indicated it continues to believe the program is in technical violation of the rules and will follow proper procedures when it makes a formal ruling. Considering these developments, AFSCME ceased promotion of the program back in July 2022 out of an abundance of caution.

It is important to note that many AFSCME members qualify for Pell grants that may cover some or all of tuition costs so the out-of-pocket charges, if any, for tuition at EGCC or other community colleges or four-year colleges will be determined on a case-by-case basis. If you are interested in learning more about EGCC and the possibility of future financial aid, please contact EGCC directly at 1-833-465-2505 or visit online. Learn more.

AFSCME encourages all prospective students to contact local community colleges where tuition rates may be lower than the out-of-state rates charged by EGCC. Every community college has financial aid counselors who can assist prospective students in obtaining Pell Grants and other scholarships.

AFSCME is also seeking to establish a new college program that provides affordable or no cost education for our members and meets with the approval of the Department of Education.

Central State University (bachelor’s completion) – CSU discontinued the Free College program on May 13. Beginning Summer of 2023, new and returning Union students may enroll in Central State University’s Union Global program. This is not a free program, but CSU is committed to providing students with low-cost and debt-free options to complete their college studies through a combination of need-based and merit-based awards to offset out-of-pocket costs. Learn more.

Paul Quinn College - PQC is no longer able to offer this benefit. Currently enrolled students may continue at their own cost. Questions about enrollment, eligibility and financial aid options may be directed to finaid@pqc.edu. Students who wish to withdraw from the college must complete a withdrawal form and submit to retention@pqc.edu.

Please continue to check this web page periodically for updates.