After a five-year process, Lanier Technical College received full accreditation Tuesday.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges voted to make Lanier Tech one of 800 regionally accredited colleges in the South, joining institutions such as the University of Georgia, Emory University, Georgia State University and Georgia Tech as well as most of the state's technical schools, according to a news release.
"Two years ago when I got this position, the first thing I said was, ‘We are going to get this done.' ... I went around to all the faculty and asked them to be cheerleaders for this. You don't get this done unless everyone is on board, " college President Russell Vandiver said. "We've been working
extremely hard on it. ... It's a pretty difficult process to go through."
The college worked for five years on the accreditation application, which it submitted this year.
The new accreditation focuses on academic quality.
The Council on Occupational Education has, since 1988, accredited Lanier Tech for career development.
Vandiver said the academic accreditation will enhance the career programs as well.
"The (academic accreditation) is a validation, a superb statement that shows the college is doing everything in a very high-quality way," said Dave Parrish, director of marketing and public relations at Lanier Tech.
Vandiver said he hopes being academically accredited will make Lanier Tech part of "the dinner table conversation" for high school students looking to continue their education.
"I think it definitely will have an impact on dual enrollment," he said. "If you're a high school student with dual enrollment, those credits you'd be building up could be accepted by a higher institution."
The lengthy accreditation process included preparing an initial application, a candidacy phase, visits by the accreditation group and reports on the college's progress.
Lanier Tech had to improve several areas following a visit made during the candidacy phase. Vandiver said the primary issue was balancing the number of part-time and full-time faculty.
"We grew 40 percent in four years. When you grow like that, you have to have the faculty," he said.
The college hired more adjunct and part-time professors to support new classes and programs but did not have a comparable amount of full-time faculty in the mix. The academic accreditation was granted after some adjustments were made to show the college was meeting its challenges.
The accreditation comes on the heels of Lanier Tech and other technical colleges switching to the semester system from the quarter system.
That helps make the transition of students from Lanier Tech to other colleges — and vice versa — more seamless, as the credits will be more likely to transfer.
The academic accreditation applies to credits earned beginning in January of this year. All five campuses in Dawson, Forsyth, Jackson, Barrow and its main Oakwood campus, are now academically accredited.
"From a college standpoint, it means we're right on the cutting edge of where we want to be," Vandiver said. "It's a confirmation you're doing things right."