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College to offer plenty of choices

ATLANTA - Interested in a career in teaching, business or nursing?

Soon, Gwinnett County high school students looking to pursue a career in any of those fields won't have to leave home to earn a bachelor's degree.

A state University System Board of Regents committee voted Tuesday to launch the county's new four-year college with seven degree programs.

The offerings at Georgia Gwinnett College will include biology, psychology, early childhood education, technology management, business, radiology and nursing.

The programs were selected with input from local business, education, civic and medical leaders, Dan Papp, the university system's senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, told board members Tuesday.

"As we talked to the folks out there, what we needed to do for the region became pretty evident,'' said Dan Kaufman, who took office in September as the new school's first president.

The General Assembly voted this year to convert what then was known as Gwinnett University Center from a satellite campus for Georgia Perimeter College and the University of Georgia into a stand-alone college.

Georgia Gwinnett College will be the university system's 35th institution and the first created since 1970.

The new school's students will be phased in during the next three years.

Kaufman said it will begin accepting about 250 juniors next fall, primarily transfers from GPC, a two-year school. At the same time, Georgia Perimeter will bring in its final freshman class at Gwinnett, he said.

Kaufman said those GPC freshmen will transfer to Georgia Gwinnett when they become sophomores in the fall of 2007. Also that semester, the new school will get its first freshman class, he said.

Georgia Gwinnett will become fully operational, with students at all four undergraduate levels, during the fall of 2008.

The early-childhood education program will lead to a dual certification in early-childhood education and special education.

"(Special ed) is not just something you can do because you're interested in it,'' said Kaufman. "It's got to be done by people who know what they're doing.''

Kaufman said the biology and psychology programs also are aimed at Gwinnett's shortage of teachers because those majors can lead to certification in secondary education.

He said the nursing program was also an obvious choice because of the shortage in that field.

Kaufman said he wants to make information management not only a degree program but a requirement for all Georgia Gwinnett students.

"The mark of an educated person in the 21st century has got to be information management,'' he said. "My goal is to have every graduate have some thread of (information technology).''

So far, the new school is operating with $1.3 million in startup funds.

Kaufman said that will need to increase significantly as the college hires faculty and other staff and begins to bring in students. He estimated that he will need about $7 million to $8 million by next fall, with most of that to be absorbed from the current Gwinnett University Center budget. When fully operational, the school will need about $12 million, he said.

The seven degree programs will be considered by the full board today. Then, they will be reviewed by the university system's top academic and financial officials, with final approval to come from the chancellor.