The opening of a new college campus in Cumming is drawing nearer.
On Tuesday, city and Forsyth County leaders will gather with representatives of North Georgia College & State University and Gainesville State College for an official groundbreaking ceremony at a site on Pilgrim Mill Road.
Located next door to the Cumming Aquatic Center, not far from Ga. 400 at Exit 16, the site will eventually house a $7 million, 40,000-square-foot facility.
City and college leaders entered into a partnership to open the new campus early last year.
Cumming Mayor H. Gravitt said he and other city officials are looking forward to the groundbreaking ceremony.
“This is a dream come true not just for myself and the city council members, but for our whole community,” he said. “This is something we’ve worked on for many, many years.”
Site work for the new campus began about six weeks ago, said Gravitt, adding that the facility is slated to open later this year.
“They’ve told me they’ll be holding classes there in October of this year,” Gravitt said. “When they get started [with construction], they say it will go fast.”
The city has a well-established relationship with North Georgia.
For several years, the college has housed its master of business administration program on the top floor of Cumming City Hall.
That program will move to the new facility, which will eventually offer a range of two- and four-year undergraduate, graduate and professional development opportunities.
Tuesday’s groundbreaking comes on the heels of a decision last week by the Georgia Board of Regents to consolidate North Georgia and Gainesville State colleges.
But according to reports from North Georgia, that transition shouldn’t have any bearing on the new Cumming campus.
Bonita Jacobs, president of North Georgia, said in a statement the facility will “proceed and provide another point of access for students interested in meeting core curriculum requirements, certain baccalaureate and graduate programs and professional development opportunities.”
While the new site won’t be residential, it is expected to alleviate some of the student population pressure at existing campuses.
With nearly 6,100 students, North Georgia is nearing capacity at its Dahlonega campus.
Gainesville State’s capacity has exceeded 100 percent on its Oakwood campus every year since 2000.
This past fall, more than 1,500 students from Forsyth County were enrolled at the schools. There were 782 at North Georgia and 806 at Gainesville State.
James McCoy, president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, said the new facility will not only be important for students but also for economic development.
“From a business infrastructure standpoint, there’s very little that is more important than having not just a high quality [public K-12] school system, but also institutions that offer cradle to grave educational opportunities,” he said.
“The opportunity to have undergraduate and graduate programs locally really does help us when we’re making sure businesses have everything they need.”