In its Tuesday meeting, The Georgia Board of Regents changed the mission of Darton and three other two-year schools in Georgia.
They are now state colleges that can offer limited bachelor's degrees, and the first degree Darton will pursue is nursing.
The state college status takes effect immediately, but to get a nursing program accredited to be a four year program could take as long as nine months. Still students are excited to hear they will eventually be able to get a four year degree without going far from home.
Classes are over at Darton College, graduation was last week, but nursing students were still in the classroom today studying for their N-CLEX certification. The news that Darton can offer limited bachelors degrees was encouraging.
"That's great news," said nursing student Paris Straughter.
"I chose nursing because that was my passion it's a the field I always wanted to work in and I chose Darton because it was close to home and has one of the best nursing programs in Georgia to me," said nursing student Rose Mathis.
Most students would like to have their bachelors, but going elsewhere to get it presents challenges, including application fees.
"Right now I'm trying to get into another school so that I can finish my education, it would have been nice to just do it all here at Darton," said nursing grad Pamela Maxie.
That could change in as little as nine months time. University System officials say the board's action reflects job related and economic development needs across the state.
"It gives an opportunity for the students to continue on to get their bachelors because right now there's a need for nurses and they want the higher education," said nursing student Beatina Butler.
Darton President Dr. Peter Sireno released a statement saying he's appreciative of the board of regents' vote: "I'd like to thank the community, Citizens for Economic Development, and our local legislators, particularity Ed Rynders, without their support this would not have been possible."
Students say it will give them the opportunity to stay in a program they love. "If they had a bachelors program, I would definitely attend Darton," said Paris.
Students are anxious for the accreditation process to get underway so they can continue their education without changing schools.
In the Board of Regents news release they say Darton's nursing program will help to increase the production of nurses in the region, and will complement programs that already exist at Albany State University and Georgia Southwestern State University.
A study by the Institute of Medicine concluded states need to raise the credentials of their nursing workforce toward the baccalaureate degree to improve quality of care and reduce medical errors and costs.