Tifton Gazette

Local News

August 12, 2013

Record enrollment for ABAC

TIFTON —  Three months ago, a record number of students walked across the graduation stage with their bachelor’s degrees in hand. Today, enrollment is climbing and every available housing space on campus is filled to capacity. Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College President David Bridges said in a press conference Monday he anticipates the start of classes for the fall semester Wednesday. In fact, he’s downright ecstatic.

“I love the atmosphere on this campus when any new year begins, and this year that first day is really going to be exciting because of the preliminary numbers I have reviewed,” Bridges, who begins his eighth fall term at ABAC, said.

Bridges said the enrollment could stretch toward 3,300 students from 151 Georgia counties, 25 countries and 22 states. One of the key factors in that possible enrollment increase over last year is that almost 1,300 of those students will live on campus in either ABAC Lakeside or ABAC Place.

“One of our goals over the past six months was to try to fill every room,” Bridges said. “Right now, we have more requests than we have space, but I am confident we can find a place for these students to live on campus. Enrollment is up, the dorms are full, and the number of students transferring to ABAC is up 40 percent from last year."

In the past, ABAC has been a school that has transferred students to other schools, Bridges said. But that's changing now.

"This is a strong indicator that people realize the quality of educational opportunity that is available at ABAC. When class begins Wednesday, we anticipate more students. More importantly, the number of students seeking bachelor's degrees is up 36.5 percent. This is a real signature moment for us," he said.

Dr. Tim Marshall, dean of the School of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the increased popularity of bachelor’s degrees at ABAC should send that school’s enrollment soaring over 1,000 students for the first time ever.

“We have had a lot of interest in the diversified agriculture degree and in the natural resources area,” Marshall said. “I think one reason for that is that there are jobs available in the agriculture industry. Employers want to hire ABAC graduates.”

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, whose daughter Caroline is an ABAC alumnus, said agriculture is Georgia’s largest industry, generating more than $71 billion in economic activity and accounting for more than 87,000 full- and part-time jobs in the state.

More than 800 students are expected to be enrolled in bachelor’s degree programs at ABAC during the coming year. That’s the highest number in the 105-year history of the college. ABAC offers bachelor’s degrees in biology, forestry, wildlife, and turfgrass and golf course management. Under the Rural Studies degree, ABAC students can also receive bachelor’s degrees in social and community development, politics and modern culture, writing and communications, and business and economic development.

That business degree is one reason that enrollment in the Stafford School of Business will reverse a five-year trend and gain some students this fall. Dill and Susan Driscoll, deans of the Stafford School of Business, believe the numbers will be even higher in the future.

“The number of freshmen in the Stafford School of Business should be up 40 percent over last fall,” Dill Driscoll said. “We are very excited about that.”

“The curriculum now is at a level where graduates can start their own businesses, continue with the second, third or fourth generation of their family businesses or just be sound business managers,” Susan Driscoll said. “Some of them will like living in rural communities, and others will prefer Atlanta or even London. We’re very excited that we have been able to create the curriculum so that our students will be ready for the real world.”

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