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ABAC Defies Trend, Enrollment On the Rise

For IMMEDIATE Release 

August 11, 2016

ABAC Defies Trend, Enrollment On the Rise

TIFTON – Bucking a nationwide trend of declining student numbers, enrollment at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College has increased for the third time in the last four years, according to the figures from the first day of fall semester classes on Wednesday.

ABAC President David Bridges said the early enrollment data indicates a student population of 3,451, a slight increase from the 3,393 students enrolled for the 2015 fall semester.  ABAC also increased its enrollment in 2013 and 2014, the only college or university south of Macon in the University System of Georgia (USG) to accomplish that feat.

“I have been studying the numbers all week, and it looks as if the enrollment from Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama has pushed us past last year,” Bridges, who begins his 11th fall semester at ABAC, said.  “We’re up 35 per cent in those states.

“ABAC is a destination college for most of those students since the majority of them are involved in our bachelor’s degrees in agriculture. I think the neighbor waivers certainly played a role in those students’ decisions to attend ABAC.”

The USG instituted a policy in 2015 that allowed certain colleges to waive out-of-state tuition for students from bordering states.  ABAC used its neighbor waivers as an incentive, resulting in a 24 per cent increase in Florida students, a 79 per cent increase in South Carolina students, and a 50 per cent increase in the number of students from Alabama.

“We usually attract students from 23 or 24 other states, and we’ve seen the number go up just in those three states from 168 students to 228 students this fall,” Bridges said.  “I have to believe that figure will be even higher next fall.”

As has been the case every year since 41 students enrolled in ABAC’s first bachelor’s degree programs in 2008, the number of students seeking four-year degrees increased dramatically this fall.  In fact, for the first time since 1933, over half of the students at ABAC are aiming for baccalaureate degrees.

Bridges said 1,741 students are majoring in bachelor’s degrees, a 25 per cent increase over 2015. The jump of 347 more students enrolled in bachelor’s degrees is the largest single-year leap in history. Top bachelor’s degree majors for ABAC students are agriculture with 612, biology with 307, natural resource management with 283, and business and economic development with 279.  A dramatic 64 per cent increase lifted the rural studies bachelor’s degree numbers to 164 students. The brand new bachelor’s degree in nursing has already attracted 22 students.

“That’s a phenomenal jump in students pursuing a bachelor’s degree,” Bridges said.  “The numbers paint a positive picture that reflects ABAC’s status as a genuine baccalaureate degree-granting institution.”

Under its previous titles of South Georgia Agricultural and Mechanical College from 1924-29 and the Georgia State College for Men from 1929-33, ABAC offered bachelor’s degrees.  That ended in 1933 when the college assumed its present title, joined the USG, and offered only associate degrees for 75 years. ABAC now offers a full range of bachelor’s degrees.

Bridges challenged the new students at the annual freshman convocation ceremony on Tuesday to complete their bachelor’s degrees in the next four years.

“Invest the time and effort that is necessary to succeed in your classes,” Bridges, a member of the ABAC Class of 1978, said.  “Commit to graduating in four years as a member of the Class of 2020.  Life is better at ABAC, and I want you to make ABAC a better place while you are here.

“We promise you the opportunity for a life changing educational experience.  It’s up to you to take advantage of that experience.  We will give you the opportunity to succeed or to fail.”

Dr. Thomas Turcotte was the featured speaker at the convocation ceremony.  A member of the ABAC Class of 2012, he recently received his doctorate degree in veterinary medicine from Auburn University. Turcotte is a veterinarian at Barnesville Animal Clinic, treating both small and large animals.

“In 2008, I was sitting right where you are sitting now,” Turcotte, a former ABAC Ambassador, said.  “I can tell you that without hard work, success will not happen.  If you want something, go for it.  You only live once.”
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