MOULTRIE -- ABAC on the Square has hit an all-time high with 403 students enrolled this semester and it's time to celebrate.

"We are pleased to reach this milestone in our mission to provide a quality post-secondary education to Moultrie, Colquitt County and the surrounding communities," ABAC on the Square Director Kay Powell said.

On Wednesday, the Moultrie satellite campus, which helps anchor the downtown square, will celebrate the milestone at 4:30 p.m. Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College President Mike Vollmer will introduce the 400th student. Also speaking are Powell and Gail Dillard, ABAC director of evening and off-campus programs.

ABAC began offering classes in Moultrie at the public library and at Moultrie Technical Institute in 1987. Now, students can obtain almost all classes necessary for associate degrees in business and education without ever leaving town.

The campus offers 48 classes this semester. Nursing and early childhood education classes are booming. A student can earn a two-year associate of science degree to become a registered nurse at ABAC on the Square, and an early childhood education student can take two years there and finish the remaining two at the Tifton campus.

Originally, the downtown facility was set up more for non-traditional students -- not fresh out of high school. Now traditional students make up half of the campus' enrollment, Powell said. In fact, the campus can't' wedge in any more students for night classes.

Evening classes are over capacity right now, with four classes spilling over into the old Moultrie Technical College (MTC) campus. There remains some room for a few more daytime classes.

"But starting at 5 p.m. we're booked -- we're overbooked," she said.

Administrators love the growth, but the momentum is harrying in light of the lack of space.

"And that's something we don't want to happen. We don't want to say we're turning away students in the evening because of space," the director said.

In the meantime, ABAC relies on the good graces of MTC.

"We have a good relationship with Dr. Anderson and Moultrie Technical College, and she has been so gracious to allow us to use these rooms that are not used (by MTC) during the evening without charge," she said. "But we don't want to wear out our welcome."Recently, ABAC was able to offer two more nursing courses locally because of a new science lab set up in an older building of MTC with equipment donated by Colquitt Regional Medical Center. The lab gave a little relief for cramped conditions but could ultimately attract more students to the nursing program.

Administrators would like to keep the campus downtown, but the Georgia Board of Regents currently doesn't have the money to accommodate growth, Powell said. Any expansion would have to come through community support.

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