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Eastern Gateway Community College sues the U.S. Department of Education on Friday. Photo: Eastern Gateway Community College

The U.S. Department of Education gets sued over free college program restrictions

Eastern Gateway sued the U.S. Department of Education on Friday, alleging violation of due process and overstepping their legal authority.

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Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC) sued the U.S. Department of Education on Friday, Sept. 9, alleging violation of due process and overstepping their legal authority. 

On July 18, 2022 the Division Chief of the Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid Division sent a cease-and-desist letter to EGCC and to not disburse Pell grant funds to any new students enrolling in the Free College Benefit program, an EGCC statement from July 20,2022 reported.  

EGCC hopes the complaint would provide some form of clarification for how to manage over 30,000 students awaiting answers regarding their collegiate career with EGCC. 

“While we have tried to engage with the agency on their allegations and directive to cease offering the Free College Benefit Program, they have not responded to our questions, have not commented on our proposed modifications, have not released the program review on which their enforcement actions are based, and have not permitted us to take advantage of the administrative appeals process. In order to preserve access to education for our students, we had to take this legal action. We are optimistic that the court will agree that there is a better and more equitable way to address the concerns expressed by ED officials and help us maintain access to higher education for our students,” stated College President Michael Geoghegan in the latest release

Eastern Gateway has operated a free College Benefit program for the past seven years, intended to help students pay for tuition after financial aid has been applied. However, The Education Department argued the program takes advantage of students who receive Pell funding by overcharging tuition fees when compared to students who do not use Pell, according to a letter the department sent Eastern Gateway. 

Although EGCC disagreed with the Education Department’s letter, it suspended new enrollment to the Free College Program in July. 

The lawsuit states 74.5% of the college revenue is derived from Pell grants. 

“In order to preserve access to education for our students, we had to take this legal action,” Geoghegan said. “We are optimistic that the court will agree that there is a better and more equitable way to address the concerns expressed by ED officials and help us maintain access to higher education for our students.”

To read the lawsuit click here.

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