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College association OKs Gainesville State, North Georgia consolidation
University of North Georgia awaits Board of Regents approval
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The University of North Georgia is all but official after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools approved the institution’s plans to consolidate two area schools: Gainesville State College and North Georgia College & State University.

The approval came at the accrediting organization’s annual meeting in Dallas, Texas, this week.

“Many individuals have worked countless hours to bring us to this point in our consolidation effort,” said University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby in a press release. “At the outset, our goal with consolidation was to broaden opportunity for more students and to do so more efficiently. The approval by SACS of our plan represents a tremendous milestone and validates the hard work of the past year.”

The Board of Regents needed the SACS accreditation to finalize the authorization of the new institution and to appoint presidents. The final approval is slated for the board’s Jan. 8 meeting.

“As a consolidated institution, the University of North Georgia will offer associate through doctoral degrees, thus creating multiple pathways for students,” said Bonita Jacobs, president of North Georgia College & State University who will lead the consolidated institution. “Through the planning process, we have begun to see the enormous potential this university will be able to offer students and our communities across the fastest-growing region of Georgia.”

The university will encompass several campuses, including those in Dahlonega, Gainesville, Cumming and Oconee.

Each campus will offer various degree pathways. For example, Gainesville’s campus, while offering some bachelor’s degrees, will start off offering mainly associate degrees but with an inside track toward entrance into a higher degree path.

“It is exciting that students will be able to choose from a variety of pathways within one institution to pursue their educational aspirations,” said Randy Pierce, interim president of Gainesville State College. “This will support the state’s efforts to increase the number of students who graduate from college.”

Augusta State University, merging with Georgia Health Sciences University, Waycross College with South Georgia College and Macon State College with Middle Georgia College also received the OK to consolidate. The plan reduces the number of state institutions from 35 to 31.

At its January 2012 meeting the Regents approved the recommendations to consolidate the eight institutions. Working groups on the campuses and at the system office then began the complex process of consolidation.