The genesis of Gainesville State College is to be found in a pattern of emerging leadership in Gainesville and Hall County. For several decades prior to the 1960’s, Gainesville-Hall County had been an agricultural and financial center for Northeast Georgia. Several factors converged in the 1950’s, including the planning and ultimate completion of interstate highways and other modern thoroughfares between Gainesville and Atlanta and the completion of the largest man-made lake in Georgia, which made property costs soar. Gainesville-Hall County then found itself in a position to become the Northeast Georgia leader in banking, finance, medicine, law, and industry. What was needed to complete the pattern was a public higher educational institution. In 1962, taking note of the University System Board of Regents’ policies concerning the establishment of junior colleges, the people in Gainesville and Hall County established a community college as recommended by Governor Sanders’ Commission to Improve Education. Since an adequate site was required by the Regents, along with a million dollars for building purposes, the people in Gainesville and Hall County indebted themselves through a bond issue to make this facility possible.
The Regents chose a site near a proposed four-lane connector highway six miles southwest of the City of Gainesville. This site could serve Gainesville and Hall County and Northeast Georgia while benefitting from a location only forty-five minutes away from the rapidly expanding metropolitan Atlanta area.
Gainesville State College and Lanier Technical College, located on adjacent campuses, initially received large amounts of state and federal monies. City, county, and state forces as well as private corporations, made substantial contributions in construction, donations of land, and other services. Many citizens of this area contributed to the project. The work of the citizens was coordinated by an educational task force. This representative group was instrumental in the preparation of the comprehensive educational complex.
Gainesville State College (Gainesville Junior College until 1987 and Gainesville College until 2005) opened in the fall of 1966 with an enrollment of 419 students, almost double the size predicted. The College began classes in Gainesville using the Civic Center and the First Baptist Church as campuses but was able to move into its own buildings for Winter Quarter, 1967. The College continued to enroll more students than had been projected by the long-range studies, necessitating a tripling of educational facilities during the College’s early years. In the fall of 2009, the enrollment of the College reached 8,800 with 6,597 of those students on the Gainesville campus.
Enrollment growth in recent years has resulted in the construction and renovation of several buildings to bring the total number of buildings on the Gainesville campus to thirteen. The most recent major addition was the state-of-the-art Science, Engineering, and Technology Building. The first parking deck funded by student fees was dedicated in July of 2009. Construction is currently underway for a new 13,000 square foot academic building which is scheduled to be open in the fall of 2011.
During the fall of 2000, the Board of Regents granted Gainesville State College permission to establish the Gainesville State College University Center on the Gainesville campus. Through the University Center, Gainesville State College is able to form partnerships with other baccalaureate degree granting institutions to provide coursework leading to the bachelor’s degree on the Gainesville campus. Several baccalaureate degree programs as well as some graduate programs from North Georgia College & State University are currently offered through the University Center.
In the spring of 2001, the Board of Regents granted Gainesville State College permission to open a site in Athens, Georgia. This effort was directed at meeting the needs of local residents who desired the services and support offered by a University System of Georgia two-year college. Enrollment in the initial term, fall of 2001, was more than 200 followed by over 600 the next year.
In the summer of 2003, the College moved to a campus south of Athens in Oconee County. The Oconee campus located in Watkinsville enrolled 2352 students in the fall of 2009 representing an unprecedented growth that reflects the need for a public two-year college in Northeast Georgia. Gainesville State College does not offer all academic programs on the Oconee campus. For a complete list of available programs, please refer to the website at http://www.gsc.edu/academics/catalogs/Pages/ProgramsofStudy.aspx.
In October of 2005, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia voted to allow Gainesville College to expand its mission and change its name to Gainesville State College. Gainesville State College moved into a category of USG institutions known as “state colleges,” which offer a wide array of two-year degrees and certificate programs along with a limited selection of baccalaureate degrees. Initially, under its new name and mission, Gainesville State College was granted permission to offer the Bachelor of Science in Applied Environmental Spatial Analysis, a “niche” bachelor of science degree unavailable at other institutions in the College’s service area.
In January of 2006, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents voted to grant permission for Gainesville State College to offer the Bachelor of Science with a major in Early Childhood Care and Education and the Bachelor of Applied Science with a major in Technology Management.
In April of 2006, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents voted to grant permission for Gainesville State College to offer a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education.
In October of 2008, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design and Technology for Theatre degree program.
In May of 2009, the first new building on the Oconee campus was dedicated. The Faculty Center was a much needed facility designed to relieve some of the space constraints that the Oconee campus has faced over the past few years. The approximately 11,000 square foot facility contains 18 faculty/staff offices, the College Bookstore, and a multi-purpose room. The multi-purpose room was named in honor of the Bishop family of Watkinsville and will be known as the Bishop Wellness and Activities Hall. The Bishop family was instrumental in the initial development of the Oconee campus prior to Gainesville State College’s acquisition of the campus.
In May of 2010, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved the College’s request to establish a Bachelor of Arts in Human Services Delivery and Administration degree program. This new degree program will begin in the fall of 2011.
In March and April of 2011, the University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved the College’s request to establish a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Bachelor of Science in Applied Research in Psychology degree programs respectively. Both degree programs will begin in the fall of 2012.