TIFTON – When 27 students walked up the front steps of what is now Tift Hall to attend the Second District Agricultural and Mechanical School on Feb. 20, 1908, they had no idea they were laying the foundation for an institution that would create an annual economic impact of almost a half a billion dollars on South Georgia 112 years later.
The Second District A&M School was an area high school that opened on that day in 1908. The school later became South Georgia A&M College in 1924, the Georgia State College for Men in 1929, and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in 1933.
That former two-year college called ABAC became a 4-year college and began offering bachelor’s degree classes in 2008, and the rest is history. Now ABAC is celebrating its 112th birthday with thousands of students pursuing four-year degrees.
“ABAC’s footprint in South Georgia makes quite a large impression,” Dr. Renata Elad, Dean of ABAC’s Stafford School of Business, said in her recent analysis of the statewide economic impact study which showed ABAC had a $499,403,672 impact on South Georgia in fiscal year 2018. “Out-of-state enrollment definitely played a part. Obviously, the word is getting around that ABAC offers a valuable education at an affordable cost.”
With instructional sites in Tifton, Moultrie, Bainbridge, Blakely, and Donalsonville during the 2019 fall term and an enrollment of 3,923 students, ABAC now attracts students from 23 countries, 21 states, and 156 of Georgia’s 159 counties.
Instead of the 1908 high school curriculum, ABAC now offers 12 bachelor’s degree programs in Agribusiness, Agriculture, Agricultural Communication, Agricultural Education, Biology, Business, Environmental Horticulture, History and Government, Natural Resource Management, Nursing, Rural Community Development, and Writing and Communication.
ABAC also continues to offer associate degrees, highlighted by a two-year degree in nursing which prepares graduates for the Registered Nurse (R.N.) licensure exam.
Visitors looking to find out more about the history of ABAC can view colorful historic panels in Tift Hall, the main administrative building on the front of the campus. These panels depict the 112-year history of the college in an easy to follow manner in the George T. Smith Parlor, the ABAC History Room, and the Freedom Gallery, all open to the public from 8 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Fridays.