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University of North Georgia earns final approval
University statutes and bylaws for faculty and staff need approval
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Workers take the cover off the new sign Tuesday on the campus of the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega.

North Georgia College & State University and Gainesville State College histories

1873: North Georgia Agricultural College was established through efforts of William Pierce Price, who secured financing through a land-grant program. The first group of students requested military training be part of the curriculum.
1929: North Georgia Agricultural College was renamed North Georgia College.
1966: Gainesville Junior College opened through the efforts of community organizers, using the civic center and First Baptist Church for classroom space.
1967: Gainesville Junior College moved into its own buildings.
1987: Gainesville Junior College was renamed Gainesville College.
1996: North Georgia College gained university status and was renamed North Georgia College & State University.
2005: Gainesville College earned state college status and was renamed Gainesville State College.
2011: University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby announced consolidation plans for eight state institutions, including North Georgia and Gainesville State.
2012: The Board of Regents announced the name of the consolidated institution: University of North Georgia.
2012: The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, an accrediting agency, approved the plan for the University of North Georgia.
2013: The Board of Regents gave its final approval for the University of North Georgia and classes started for the first time under the new name.

It’s finally official.

For months, officials from North Georgia College & State University and Gainesville State College have been working to consolidate the two institutions per the directive of the University System of Georgia.

Tuesday morning, the Board of Regents gave its final approval for the University of North Georgia, which will span four campuses in Dahlonega, Gainesville, Cumming and Oconee.

The approval, officials said, allows the institution to start implementing details of the consolidation, as well as continuing to develop the new regional university.

“It occurred to me after the vote that we have done so much planning with so many people involved that we’re now able to move a bit into an implementation phase,” said Bonita Jacobs, who was officially announced as the institution’s president at the meeting.

“Now, there’s still planning to be done and we still have areas where we have to think things through, but we have created the skeleton with what we are going to be doing and we have filled in a lot of the details around that skeleton.

“Now that we are officially the University of North Georgia we can begin implementing a lot of the things we’ve had on hold.”

The system announced the merger in September 2011 and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools approved the plan this past December. The board approval marks the final step to make the consolidation official.

“We were very excited to see all of our work come to fruition,” Jacobs said.

Shortly after the vote in Atlanta, the four campuses unveiled new signs with the university’s new name.

Students, however, said the name may be different, but the feel on campus has remained largely intact.

“I really don’t see too much change around here — it’s still the same school,” said Brent Abernathy, a freshman on the Gainesville campus. “New name, same place.”

Jacobs said although there were some concerns on campus about the consolidation, the response from faculty, staff and students has been mostly positive.

“I think the trajectory is very positive,” Jacobs said. “There are going to be concerns anytime we go through this much change with people musing about: ‘Have we done this? Is this going to be right? How does this affect me?’ Those are all good questions and we want people to ask those, but the overall environment, I feel a lot of excitement, a lot of energy and a lot of understanding of what we’re going to be able to do as a combined institution.”

One of the first steps in the wake of the board’s approval is the approval of the university’s statutes and bylaws for its faculty and staff. The school’s faculty senate and staff council will meet on Friday to vote on the statutes that have been molded for months.

“It is a big step to get the consolidation done, but we know there is still a lot of work to do — we’re definitely not at the finish line yet,” Robert Guyton, faculty senate chairman at Gainesville State, told The Times prior to the consolidation vote. “We are definitely well under way.”

The two schools will remain financially independent until the end of the fiscal year, and officials will continue to mold the course offerings and academic calendars for each of the four campuses.

Under the new university, each campus will offer various degree pathways for the university’s 16,000 students.

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.

“I just think it will bring more opportunities,” said Daniel Esparza, a sophomore on the Gainesville campus.

“Maybe there will be more majors offered here than were offered before. I mean, before there were a limited amount of bachelor’s degrees that were offered.”

Tuition will be program-based and, unless otherwise specified, according to school officials, students enrolled in the associate degree program will be charged state college tuition rates; those in the baccalaureate program will be charged state university rates; and graduate students will be charged the rates of that particular program.

“The only thing that really concerned me was the amount of tuition I was going to have to pay,” Esparza said. “I was afraid that it was going to increase — that’s something I’m going to keep up with.”

The university will remain as The Military College of Georgia and one of six military colleges in the nation, with more than 750 students in its Corps of Cadets.

“UNG will be one of the few universities in the country, if not the only one, to offer such a broad range of degrees and educational opportunities,” Jacobs said in a press release. “Individually, our institutions have been leaders in our sectors. Combined, the scope of our degree programs — from certificates and associate’s degrees to doctoral level programs, along with other elements of our mission, like the Corps of Cadets and multi-campus sites, create a new and rare educational experience.”

The board also approved consolidations for Augusta State University and Georgia Health Sciences University; Waycross College and South Georgia College; and Macon State College and Middle Georgia College. The plan reduces the number of state institutions from 35 to 31.

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