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College to send accreditation proposal

LAWRENCEVILLE - Georgia Gwinnett College on Tuesday will send off its application for candidacy for accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, after college officials add signed contracts of new faculty members to the thousands of pages of application documents.

College officials have finished preparing the application documents that demonstrate the college's belief it is in compliance with SACS and U.S. Department of Education standards. As soon as the contracts are completed and signed, college officials plan to send the application to the regional accrediting agency, said Stanley C. Preczewski, the college's vice president for academic and student affairs.

Georgia Gwinnett has been authorized to hire 82 faculty members, which would increase the number of faculty to 93, Preczewski said.

The quality of the application determines the length of the candidacy application process, said Tom Benberg, the vice president and chief of staff of the SACS Commission on Colleges.

"One might be able to gain candidacy, say, within a couple of years," Benberg said.

An exact timeline cannot be determined by the Commission on Colleges or Georgia Gwinnett, as the road to accreditation contains many variables.

If Georgia Gwinnett's application is acceptable, Benberg said, a candidacy committee will be authorized to visit the campus. After the committee's visit, a report is written and a recommendation is made to the commission.

The Commission on Colleges must decide if candidacy is awarded to the institution, Benberg said. If candidacy is granted, an accreditation committee will visit the school to determine the extent of compliance with student learning standards.

"An institution can be in candidacy for up to four years," Benberg said.

The initial visit will be made to the school within the first two years of candidacy, he said. If membership to SACS is denied after this visit, a committee will return within two years.

No new degree programs will be added at Georgia Gwinnett until the school is granted accreditation, Preczewski said.

"We are frozen in time," he said. "We cannot add or subtract programs. ... It's not an option. We're not allowed to do it, period."

The college offers bachelor's degree programs in biology, psychology and business. An information technology degree will be offered this fall.

The Board of Regents has also approved the college's plan to offer degrees in education, nursing and radiologic technology, but Georgia Gwinnett needs to be accredited to offer teaching or medical programs.

Georgia Gwinnett College, the state's newest four-year college, opened in August and is accepting applications for 3,000 students.