Note from the Editors: In January 2013 South Georgia College merged with Waycross College to form South Georgia State College. This article chronicles the history of South Georgia College from its founding until the time of the merger.
South Georgia College is a four-year institution of the University System of Georgia. Located in Douglas, the school has provided educational opportunities to the residents of south Georgia since the early 1900s.
In 1906 the state legislature passed the Perry Act, which created an agricultural and mechanical (A&M) school in each of the congressional districts in the state. These secondary schools were designed to prepare rural youth for farm life. Graduates were also qualified for college admission. The legislature chose Douglas as the site of the Eleventh District Agricultural and Mechanical School. Local resident Benajah Peterson donated land for the school, and local residents raised $52,000 to help cover construction costs.
The institution opened its doors to students in 1907 and primarily provided high school level instruction.
The growth of public education in Georgia during the first few decades of the twentieth century, particularly at the high school level, made the A&M schools largely unnecessary, and in the 1920s the legislature converted seven of the schools to two-year colleges. The Eleventh District A&M School was the first to undergo this transition and in 1927 became South Georgia Junior State College. James Meriwether Thrash served as the college’s first president.
In the late 1920s state leaders began an examination of higher education in Georgia with the intention of reorganizing and simplifying the system. In 1932 South Georgia Junior State College became one of the original institutions of the University System of Georgia. To mark its new status, the school shortened its name to South Georgia College.
Since the 1930s, the school has undergone steady expansion beyond its original three buildings. By 2006 the 220-acre campus supported twenty-six buildings, including two residence halls, a wellness center, and a student center. A number of campus activities, including a variety of intramural and intercollegiate sports as well as numerous student clubs and organizations, are available to students. In fall 2009 enrollment at South Georgia College reached 2,000 students, and the faculty to student ration was 1:20.
In 2011 the university system’s board of regents redesignated South Georgia College from a two-year to a four-year institution. The change was made to enable the college to offer a bachelor of science degree in nursing, scheduled to begin in fall 2013.
South Georgia College offered twenty-three programs of study in 2012. The college maintains a cooperative arrangement with Wiregrass Georgia Technical College in Fitzgerald in which students can take classes at both institutions, and students may also participate in study-abroad programs in Costa Rica and Europe.