Following the American Revolution, a zeal for education spread through the new United States. Augustans, too, caught this fire and chartered the state’s first academy in 1783.
In 1791 when President George Washington attended the examinations at the Academy of Richmond County, the school offered post-secondary studies in Latin, French, Greek, algebra, and trigonometry to prepare students for transfer to universities as sophomores. This year of college work was the beginning of higher education in Augusta.
In the early 19th century the seeds of medical education were also germinating. In 1817 the city established a board to overlook the health problems of the town. The next year, on property purchased from the Trustees of the Academy, a ten-bed City Hospital was constructed. In 1822, Dr. Milton Antony and seven physicians organized the Medical Society of Augusta to improve healthcare and physician education. Four years later, Antony began instructing students in the City Hospital, joined the following year by Dr. Joseph Adams Eve. In 1828, the two physicians secured a state charter to establish the Medical Academy of Georgia, which could award Bachelor of Medicine degrees. In order to grant the M.D. degree, the General Assembly revised the 1828 charter, changing the name to the Medical Institute of Georgia and in 1833 to the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) to more accurately reflect its true mission and status. MCG moved into a grand new building on Telfair St. in 1835, on property adjoining the Academy.
Throughout the antebellum era, the two institutions operated side by side, with ARC students even being allowed to attend certain lectures at MCG.
When the Civil War began in 1861, both institutions suspended classes as faculty and students took roles in the war efforts. ARC’s building became a hospital, and the MCG building became surgeons’ quarters, with its amphitheater serving as an operating room. When the war ended in 1865, MCG resumed classes, although ARC served as headquarters for federal troops for two more years before resuming operation.
In 1867, Col. George Washington Rains, the Confederate commandant of the Augusta Arsenal and the Augusta Powder Works, was asked to reopen ARC. He became regent (headmaster) and established a new Scientific Department. ARC students could attend his classes at MCG, where Rains also taught chemistry. In 1873, MCG became loosely affiliated with the University of Georgia as its Medical Department and in 1880, Col. Rains became dean (president) of MCG and serving until 1884.
In 1910 ARC came under control of the Richmond County Board of Education, which added a formal fifth year of study as preparation for college.
Augustans boasted that it was the only high school in the state offering college credit. In 1912, legislation officially made MCG the Medical Department of UGA and the institution moved to a new campus in January 1913.
As the national junior college movement gained momentum, ARC’s fifth year evolved in 1925 into the first chartered junior college in the state—the Junior College of Augusta (JCA). The following year ARC and the JCA moved to a new location on Baker Avenue, where they would share space for the next 31 years. The Medical College was also evolving. New facilities advanced its academic, research, and clinical care mission. When the University System was created in 1932, it absorbed control of UGA and its medical department and the medical college became the first of Augusta’s higher education institutions to become part of the University System of Georgia.
Both institutions made contributions in World War II and in the post war years both began periods of expansion and growth.
In 1950, MCG regained its autonomy and again became the Medical College of Georgia. In 1956 the institution completed construction of its own teaching hospital. Also in the 1950s, overcrowding reached a critical point at the building shared by ARC and JCA. A remedy was found when the U.S. government abandoned the Augusta Arsenal in 1955 and the college acquired part of the property, adding to the footprint over the years and converting old arsenal building to educational purposes. The JCA joined the University System in 1958 becoming Augusta College. In 1963, the College became a four-year institution; the first graduate degrees were added in the 1970s and others over the next decades.
Throughout the post war years both institutions grew physically and programmatically. They also made important changes in the student bodies. The medical college began admitting women in 1922 and the junior college was co-ed from the beginning. Both institutions remained racially segregated, however, until the mid-1960s when the first African Americans matriculated.
In 1996 Augusta College acquired university status as Augusta State University. In 2011 MCG became Georgia Health Sciences University to reflect its broad mission in many fields of health sciences.
Both schools had expanded programs to meet the education needs of the rapidly changing society of the late 20th/early 21st century. Building on the legacies of its parent institutions, in 2013 the two universities became one.
On December 1, 2015, that one became Augusta University.