Georgia Gwinnett College achieves SACS accreditation

Georgia’s newest four-year public institution, Georgia Gwinnett College, received notification today from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) that the college has been granted its initial accreditation, less than three years after opening its doors to students. The decision, which came only a year after the college was granted candidacy toward accreditation last June, affirms Georgia Gwinnett’s continuing commitment to academic excellence, public accountability and its capacity to provide effective programs and services based on accreditation standards established by SACS.

Georgia’s newest four-year public institution, Georgia Gwinnett College, received notification today from the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) that the college has been granted its initial accreditation, less than three years after opening its doors to students. The decision, which came only a year after the college was granted candidacy toward accreditation last June, affirms Georgia Gwinnett’s continuing commitment to academic excellence, public accountability and its capacity to provide effective programs and services based on accreditation standards established by SACS.

Accreditation, which often takes four to six years to achieve, is intended to assure constituents and the public of the quality and integrity of higher education institutions and programs, and to help those institutions and programs improve. These outcomes are verified through rigorous internal and external review processes during which the institution is evaluated against a common set of standards.

“No one thought we could get it done this fast, but we did it and we did it well” GGC President Daniel J. Kaufman said after he received the news from SACS representatives. “Earning accreditation – particularly this early on in the college’s existence – is testimony to the tremendous support we have received from the Board of Regents, the governor and lieutenant governor, the General Assembly, and the entire Gwinnett community. We also want to thank the great staff at SACS for all the assistance they provided during this entire process.”

“In just a few years, we have provided students access to an excellent college education because of dedicated and inspiring professors who are devoted to teaching and student development. Accreditation is a major accomplishment for the GGC team, and I commend all the faculty and staff who worked tirelessly to achieve this milestone in our short history as a college.”

Georgia Gwinnett was established by the Georgia General Assembly in 2005 and opened its doors to students in the fall of 2006. Just days after the college was granted candidacy toward accreditation by SACS in 2008, it held its inaugural commencement ceremony, graduating 17 of its first students. Several of GGC’s graduates have gone on to graduate school at some of the most prominent institutions in the nation – including Harvard University. Once it achieved candidacy status, GGC was able to offer its students access to federal financial aid, including Pell grants and Stafford loans.

When accreditation is awarded to an institution of higher education by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a regional accrediting agency recognized by the United States Department of Education, it means that the institution has a mission appropriate to higher education; resources, programs and services sufficient to accomplish and sustain its mission; clearly specified educational objectives that are consistent with its mission and appropriate to the degrees it offers and it is successful in achieving its stated objectives.

The accreditation process is a three-step progression, typically spaced over four to six years. The process includes application, candidacy and accreditation. GGC submitted its application for candidacy in October of 2007, and it was granted in June of 2008. Work on the request for accreditation began immediately thereafter, and thousands of pages of documentation and records were provided to SACS in order to certify compliance with the comprehensive standards that must be satisfied in order for an institution to be accredited. Following a review of the submission, SACS sent a 10-member team to the Lawrenceville campus for an on-site visit in April 2009 to verify the accuracy of the submitted materials, assess the facilities and interview faculty, staff and students. The report from this site visit led to the favorable decision today.

“What we have achieved is unheard of,” Dr. Stas Preczewski, vice president of academic and student affairs told the faculty and staff today following the announcement. “We are light years ahead of where others thought we would be at this juncture – earning accreditation in less than three years – but more importantly, we have built a superb foundation that will contribute to our future successes.”

“Less than three years ago, 118 students took a chance on Georgia Gwinnett College. Today, our charter graduates have gone on to further their education or have entered the working world. They were the pioneers.”

“In the fall we anticipate 3,000 students walking the halls of GGC,” Preczewski continued. “Engaging our faculty in our labs and classrooms and witnessing unparalleled construction activities including new housing, a state-of-the-art library and a student center, all slated to open next year. The latter are all additions to the most technologically-modern campus in the state.”

Earlier this month, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved a significant expansion of academic programs for GGC. The three new majors in English, history and mathematics will be added to the college’s current offerings in biology, business administration, psychology and information technology in January 2010 pending approval by SACS. Georgia Gwinnett also has requested the addition of majors in exercise science, political science and criminal justice/criminology, early childhood education and special education. In addition, the college plans to add a major in nursing within the next 18 months to accommodate the 10,000 students expected to enroll at GGC in the next five years. Eligible high school students can now participate in joint and dual enrollment programs at GGC as well, thereby getting an early start on their college degrees.

“Gwinnett County residents and community leaders should be justifiably proud of Georgia Gwinnett College and what it represents as an open-admissions access college of excellence in service to the northeast Georgia community,” Dr. Preczewski added. “We look forward to educating, in the years ahead, thousands of high school graduates, transfer students and adults who seek their bachelor’s degree at a public college that delivers a private school feeling.”

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