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South Georgia, East Georgia get four-year status
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The approval by the Board of Regents to change the institutional missions of two of the University System of Georgia’s (USG) current two-year colleges — South Georgia College in Douglas and East Georgia College in Swainsboro — to that of a “state college” will allow them to offer limited bachelor’s degree programs.

The board’s action follows the regents approval in May of state college mission status for Darton College in Albany, Georgia Highlands College in Rome, and in metropolitan Atlanta, both Atlanta Metropolitan College and Georgia Perimeter College.

“This reflects the Board’s continuing efforts to meet the state’s economic development needs through targeted baccalaureate programs,” said Rob Watts, chief operating officer for the USG.

The actions bring the number of USG institutions in the state college sector to 14. The state college sector was established in 1998 and categorizes two-year, associate-degree granting institutions that have been authorized by the Board to offer a limited number of four-year baccalaureate degree programs. The University System’s other institutional categories are: research universities, regional universities, state universities, and two-year colleges.

The mission changes at South Georgia College and East Georgia College reflect the regents’ ongoing focus on meeting the growing need for healthcare professionals in Georgia, specifically in nursing, and for graduates in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) areas.

South Georgia College currently offers associate’s level nursing programs. The Board’s approval will allow it to offer a bachelor of science in nursing degree, targeted to existing holders of a registered nurse license and associate’s degree who wish to complete a bachelor’s degree.

In 2006, the Health Resources and Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services reported that Georgia would have a deficit of nearly 38,000 registered nurses by 2020, absent any action by state leaders. Further, a 2010 report from the Institute of Medicine indicated the need for each state to raise the credentials of its nursing workforce towards the baccalaureate degree to improve quality of care, and reduce medical errors and costs.

With the expansion of offerings in the biological sciences, a STEM area, East Georgia College students will be able to complete the required coursework to receive the baccalaureate degree in biology.

The start date for the new bachelor’s degree programs at South Georgia College and East Georgia College will vary depending upon review and approval from the relevant accrediting organizations.