In the mountains of Fannin County, the University of North Georgia's new stand-alone Blue Ridge Campus continues to take shape.
The main roads have been paved, and utilities have been installed and will be tied into city mains. Site grading has begun, and construction on the building itself should begin in August. The campus is scheduled to be completed in time for classes beginning fall semester 2020.
The new campus is located off Ga. 515, about three miles from the current Blue Ridge Campus.
Georgia Speaker of the House of Representatives David Ralston helped secure $5.5 million in state funds for the new Blue Ridge Campus in the 2019 fiscal year budget. Ralston, a UNG alumnus, represents Georgia District 7, including Fannin County, in the General Assembly.
"I'm excited to see this important project move forward. UNG's new Blue Ridge Campus will make permanent the availability of a world-class college education in our community," Ralston said. "As one of the region's top public universities — and consistently ranked as one of the best values in higher education — UNG will afford students better job prospects and attract new businesses to our north Georgia mountains for generations to come."
Sandy Ott, director of UNG's Blue Ridge Campus, said science lab space, a computer lab, and spaces for students to gather and study outside of classrooms were important elements in the design of the new campus. Access to science labs will expand course offerings to allow students to finish specific degree paths in Blue Ridge.
"From the beginning of the planning process for the new campus, the focus has been on our students," Ott said.
The Blue Ridge Campus had 20 students when it opened in 2015, and the enrollment goal for fall 2019 is 175 students, Ott said. The design of the new campus leaves the opportunity for future growth, including another building plus more parking and sidewalks.UNG established the Blue Ridge Campus in 2015 in response to a need for access to higher education that was identified through UNG's Regional Education and Economic Development Task Force, a group of more than 100 business, education, government, and community leaders from northeast Georgia. The new location will further cement UNG's efforts to advance educational attainment and economic development in the region.