TIFTON—A record number of students decided on a major in the great outdoors at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College when ABAC returned to in-person classes for the recent start of the fall semester.
ABAC President David Bridges said early numbers showed a record 1,371 students majoring in the School of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Of that number, an all-time high of 273 students chose Natural Resource Management which features programs in forestry, wildlife, and conservation law enforcement. ABAC’s overall enrollment is nearly 4,000 students.
“Believe it or not, it might have something to do with the pandemic,” Bridges said. “Like many people in America today, some of our students are choosing careers that take them away from big cities. Because of the coronavirus and its effect on highly populated areas, that could be what we are seeing.
“Agriculture is Georgia’s largest industry, and jobs are available in many different sectors in the overall ag industry. Our mission is to prepare these students for life, and for some students, that life is in a place where they don’t have to fight traffic every day.”
ABAC returned to in-person instruction this fall after spending the final weeks of the spring semester and the entirety of the summer term with online classes due to COVID-19. For five months, the usually bustling ABAC campus had not a single student.
“It has been fun to walk around and see these faces back in the classrooms,” Bridges, who embarks on his record-setting 15th year as the ABAC President, said. “The ABAC campus is alive again because the students bring a vitality with them.”
Bridges said other bachelor’s degrees that are enjoying increased attention from students this fall are biology and business. Both programs have already surpassed the number of students who were enrolled in the 2019 fall term.
“Nursing is also doing really well,” Bridges said. “That’s the case with our landmark associate degree program and the bachelor’s degree program in nursing. ABAC graduates a lot of quality nurses, who obviously find jobs right here in this area.”
A total of 909 students are pursuing nursing degrees and a record 328 students are enrolled in the nursing curriculum. The rest of the students aiming to be nurses are in pre-nursing or core curriculum classes preparing them to apply for the nursing program.
Because of the coronavirus, ABAC tightened its fall semester schedule so that classes end on Nov. 19, and final examinations conclude on Nov. 24. When the students go home for Thanksgiving, they will not return to the campus until just prior to the spring semester’s opening day on Jan. 11, 2021.