LAWRENCEVILLE - A six-member committee from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools left Georgia Gwinnett College on Wednesday morning, after spending two days meeting with groups of people on the campus.
The committee was conducting a peer review to verify materials Georgia Gwinnett College included in its application for candidacy for accreditation, said David Carter, vice president and director of training and research for the SACS Commission on Colleges.
The group was able to do "a pretty comprehensive review" of the 11 core requirements the college is required to meet to become a candidate for accreditation, Carter said.
Within the next couple of weeks, Carter said the committee will send a draft of its report to GGC President Daniel Kaufman, who will review the report to make sure it's factually accurate. Then the committee will complete the report and send the final version back to the college, which has a chance to respond to any issues noted by the peer group.
The report, along with the college's response, will be sent to another committee for review, Carter said. Their findings will be sent the Commission on College's Executive Council, which will make a recommendation to the commissioners on whether Georgia Gwinnett College should be granted or denied candidacy.
The Commission on Colleges will decide in June if the college is granted candidacy, Carter said.
Because he does not know how the commissioners will act, he said he couldn't comment on how the college was doing during the visit.
But he said once an institution's application for candidacy is accepted, it's not often the school is denied candidacy.
"It's a very arduous review process that it takes to get to the point to grant authorization of a candidacy visit," Carter said.
Carter said Georgia Gwinnett College seemed well prepared for the visit. He said the college has been open, candid, forthright and very collegial in its approach.
If Georgia Gwinnett College is granted candidacy, the school would experience some immediate operational benefits, Carter said.
For example, students would be eligible for federal financial aid. While the college's students are allowed to receive the HOPE scholarship, they haven't been able to receive Pell grants. Instead, the GGC Foundation has provided matching grants to those who were eligible for the need-based aid.
Getting candidacy status also shows that a school has made a significant progress on the pathway to accreditation, Carter said.
To become accredited, a school with candidacy status must submit another application and undergo another on-site review. Once a school is granted candidacy, the institution has up to four years to become accredited, Carter said.
"Few want to take that long, and most don't take that long," Carter said. "Most, once they reach candidacy, want to move forward as quickly as possible, within two years or less."