Georgia Highlands College

SACS Approves GHC for Baccalaureate Degrees

ROME, GA, June 21 – The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools today approved Level II status for Georgia Highlands College, allowing the institution to begin offering four-year degrees.  GHC had already announced that it planned to begin offering a Bachelor of Science curriculum in nursing in 2013 pending SACS and Georgia Board of Nursing approval. The SACS approval means the college can officially offer that degree and others if approved by the Board of Regents and SACS.  
The University System of Georgia granted GHC state college status last May, which allowed the institution to offer four-year programs for the first time.  A feasibility study concluded that the most pressing demand in Northwest Georgia was for a baccalaureate in nursing.  One of the recommendations in The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health report published by the Institute of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is for 80 percent of the nursing workforce to be baccalaureate prepared by 2020. National studies conducted by nursing organizations showed that most hospitals in the United States will transition to meet this recommendation. Many are offering tuition aid for their associate-level nurses to receive a bachelor’s degree.  GHC currently offers an Associate of Science in nursing, which makes its students eligible to take the licensure exam to become a registered nurse.  The new degree allows RNs to complete their B.S.N.  Only nurses who have received a license as a registered nurse will be admitted.
About 75 percent of the RNs in hospitals within Northwest Georgia are currently at the associate’s level.  The Georgia Highlands program, which will be offered in Rome, will give these professionals an opportunity to upgrade their degrees close to home.  Much of the bachelor’s curriculum will be offered online to accommodate working nurses.  
Dr. Laura Musselwhite, interim vice president for academic and student affairs and the institution’s SACS liaison, said the approval will create a pathway for Georgia Highlands to investigate future four-year programs to benefit its communities.  “The process of a level-change application is complex,” she said.  “SACS is not only approving one program in particular, but baccalaureate status in general.  An institution must demonstrate that it is capable of providing all the academic and student services necessary for a four-year degree program.”
GHC currently maintains its nursing program in Rome and in Marietta, at WellStar Health System. 

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