Located in Milledgeville, a fomer state capital, Georgia Military College is one of five military junior colleges in the United States. Originally created as part of the University of Georgia (UGA), the school is now an independently run institution offering educational opportunities to both current and future members of the U.S. military.
Plans for the college began in 1871, when Georgia received $243,000 from the federal government, its share of funds from the Morrill Act of 1862. Looking to revitalize a town that had suffered financially since the state capital moved to Atlanta in 1868, local leaders lobbied for the founding of a new agricultural and military college in Milledgeville. A struggle lasting several years occurred between local leaders and UGA supporters, who wanted the money to go to the state university in Athens. Milledgeville’s boosters eventually lost the battle, but in 1878 the state legislature reallocated a small amount of land-grant money for the creation of a college in Milledgeville. Chartered in 1879 as the Middle Georgia Military and Agricultural College, the school opened a year later as a branch campus of UGA.
To help get the school started, the state transferred to the university’s trustees the former statehouse, executive mansion, state penitentiary, and land on which the buildings reside. Located on the highest point in the town, the Old Capitol Building became the main facility for the new college, while the other buildings served various functions for the school. During its first year, the college enrolled 385 students and employed 9 instructors.
Securing the school’s financial future became a constant struggle for its supporters. University trustees had allocated a mere $2,000 annually toward upkeep, an amount they reduced to $1,500 a few years later. In 1893 the university stopped sending funds completely, forcing legislators and local residents to find alternative sources of funding. In 1894 the Old Capitol Building burned, but despite financial hardships at the time, the school trustees pledged to rebuild it. With support from local, state, and federal sources, the college repaired the fire damage and erected several new buildings.
Like other Georgia colleges founded during the nineteenth century, Middle Georgia Military and Agricultural College was a college in name only, more closely resembling a modern high school. Its primary purpose was to train teachers and prepare students for further study at a state university. In 1900, reflecting the fact that very few agriculture-related classes had ever been taught, the school shortened its name to Georgia Military College. Through the first decades of the twentieth century, it continued to function as a high school for local children, and during the 1920s the legislature officially dissolved the relationship between Georgia Military College and UGA. In 1930 state lawmakers gave a $10,000 grant to the school for the creation of a junior-college division. Starting in the 1930s, the college also developed a close relationship with the U.S. military, which designated the school a military junior college in 1950.
Today Georgia Military College offers three associate degrees in more than twenty majors and maintains a dual-purpose organizational structure. The school is composed of a preparatory high school and a two-year junior college. In fall 2009 the junior college enrolled more than 5,700 students, of whom approximately 60 percent were women. Only 5 percent of junior-college students are cadets enrolled in the military-science program; they are the only college students who live on campus. Of the commuting students, around 30 percent attend part time.
In the twenty-first century Georgia Military College has expanded beyond its Milledgeville campus by opening satellite campuses and extension offices across Georgia, as well as developing an online campus. These facilities offer college course work for both active-duty military personnel and civilians.