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The ol' college try
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Back when I was with the Creative Loafing organization — one of the first players in the alt-weekly movement in the U.S. media and still a major presence — the company’s founder, Debbie Eason, imparted a lesson to me that I still remember.

She said that contrary to popular opinion, our readers aren’t identifiable by their politics, nor by their age.

Instead, Debbie always told us, the single most important factor in determining who will be a regular reader of an alt-weekly newspaper is having a college education.

For that reason, each year’s annual College Issue is a very important one to us. It’s kind of a win/win: The issue precisely targets our core readership, while promoting the very thing that will hopefully garner us more readers in the future.

More and more, the Savannah area is awash in higher education and the benefits it brings. I think history will look back on Savannah’s late 20th century renaissance as being less influenced by tourism or “The Book” than by the overwhelmingly positive influence of colleges and universities in making Savannah the world-class destination city it’s on the verge of becoming.

Just go down the list to see how big this sector has become locally:

Everyone knows about the Savannah College of Art & Design’s enormous impact on the city, not only with restoring its dormant historic housing stock but in bringing a vibrant, youthful, culturally savvy presence to the entire area. This presence is not only due to its students, but its faculty and alumni as well, who play a leading role in the community in the arts, in business and in civic life.

Then there’s the venerable Armstrong Atlantic State University, which I firmly believe to be one of the best education buys in the entire nation. Anyone who thinks AASU is just a commuter college is either clueless or just plain nuts. Don’t be deceived by the bargain rates; it’s not only a top-tier academic university, but one which has yet to realize its full growth and potential.

Savannah State University is the oldest of Georgia’s historically black colleges and universities, begun in 1890 as the Georgia State Industrial College for Colored Youth. Its alumni have gone on to major positions in Savannah civic life -- including, oh say, the mayor.

South University is a private institution with a long pedigree. It was founded in Savannah in 1899 as Draughons Practical Business College. After its acquisition by the family of John T. South III, its name was changed to South College in 1985. Recently the addition of masters and doctorate degrees led to its current incarnation as a university with a presence throughout the region.

With roots in the area going back to 1929, Savannah Technical College has a large new campus on the southside and is going great guns with an expansive program of offerings, from its core nursing program to culinary arts to its Crossroads Technology Campus in west Chatham.

A short drive away in Statesboro is Georgia Southern University, with about 14,000 undergrads, a sizeable graduate presence and over 120 degree programs. (Eagle trivia: GSU is home to the U.S. National Tick Collection, the largest collection of ticks in the world. No, really.)

The University of Georgia is represented at the publicly-accessible Marine Extension Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island.

And in perhaps the least known but possibly the most interesting long-term development, Georgia Tech recently opened a Savannah campus in west Chatham, anchor tenant of the region’s largest technology corridor.

So with all that in mind, we hope you enjoy this year’s College Issue, which attempts in its own small way to celebrate the diverse contributions of local colleges and universities to Savannah’s fabric of life.

And of course as usual you can enjoy also most of our regular features.

Jim Morekis is editor-in-chief of Connect Savannah. E-mail him at