More Than a Century of Academic Excellence: The History of South University

South University traces its heritage to 1899, when Dr. John Draughon established Draughon’s Practical Business College in Savannah, Georgia. Since we opened our doors, we have grown in size to 15 campuses across several states, as well as launched our online courses. What has not wavered is our commitment to students, high standards of professionalism, and academic excellence. These continue to strengthen with each graduation.

Read our history or view by year below.

Dr. John Draughon established Draughon’s Practical Business College in 1899 in historic Savannah, Georgia. The school was originally located in the Masonic Lodge that stood on the northeast corner of Liberty Street and Whitaker Street on the west side of downtown Savannah. During its early years, the College was moved several times to accommodate growing enrollment, and eventually was settled into the Atlantic Mutual Building.

The school’s name was changed to Draughon’s Junior College when it was acquired in 1974 by the South family, longtime civic and business leaders in Savannah. That year, the school was relocated to its original neighborhood and began a period of expansion into a multi-campus system with the addition of a campus in West Palm Beach, Florida. In 1986, the institution’s name was changed to South College.

In 1996, the College became a four-year school with the addition of a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, and in 1997 opened its third campus in what had been the Massey-Draughon Business College in Montgomery, Alabama. That same year, the College reorganized its administrative structure into the School of Business and the School of Health Professions with the addition of the Physician Assistant program at the baccalaureate level and the Physical Therapist Assistant program at the associate level.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) accredited the institution to confer master’s degrees in 2001, and the Master of Science in Physician Assistant degree program was added. In October of that year, with the addition of this post-baccalaureate degree program, South College officially became South University.

In January 2002, South University opened its fourth campus, formerly Columbia Junior College, in Columbia, South Carolina. Later that year, the University announced plans to open a School of Pharmacy on the Savannah campus and to offer a Doctor of Pharmacy degree program. In December 2002, South University received accreditation to award doctoral degrees. So, in a span of seven years, the school had been transformed from a two-year college granting associate’s degrees and certificates into a four-year university with four campuses, multiple bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, and the ability to offer doctoral degree programs.

In 2004, the University began web-based instruction with the introduction of online bachelor’s degree programs in Business Administration and Information Technology. Bachelor of Science degree programs in Healthcare Management, Nursing, and Criminal Justice were added in 2005.

The next year, South University opened its fifth campus, in Tampa, Florida. In addition, the University launched four online master’s degree programs: Master of Business Administration, Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Administration, Master of Science in Criminal Justice, and Master of Science in Nursing. South University also announced the relocation of its Columbia campus to the city’s growing east side.

In 2006, South University online begins to offer master’s degrees in business administration, criminal justice and healthcare administration, Associate of Science degrees in Information Technology and Paralegal Studies, Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies, and Associate of Science in Business Administration.

At the Savannah campus in 2007, South University opened a new library, more than tripling the size and resources available to students and faculty. That year, the University also introduced the MBA and MBA in Healthcare Administration degree programs at the Columbia, Montgomery, Savannah, and West Palm Beach campuses, and launched the RN to BSN Degree Completion Program at Columbia, Tampa, and West Palm Beach. Online, South University launched Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Bachelor of Science in Health Science, and Associate of Science in Accounting degree programs. Also that year, South University celebrated its first graduating class of fully online students and awarded the largest number of graduate degrees in its history.

In 2008, the South University Board of Trustees approved the creation of the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Business, College of Health Professions, and College of Nursing, which expanded the BS in Nursing degree program to the Columbia campus. Our online classes expanded to include an Associate of Science in Allied Health Science and Master of Science in Leadership and Information Systems and Technology degree programs.

The University expanded the Master of Science degree program in Physician Assistant Studies to its Tampa campus in 2009 and announced the opening of a School of Pharmacy satellite location in Columbia. South University also completed the construction and opening of campus locations in Richmond and Virginia Beach, VA. And online begins to offer a Master of Public Administration, a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and Accelerated RN to MSN degree program.

In 2010, South University’s Board of Trustees approved the creation of the College of Creative Art and Design and the merger of The Art Institute Dallas and The Art Institute Fort Worth into South University. Those schools are now campuses of South University. That year, the University also announced the opening of its Novi, MI campus. An Associate of Science in Criminal Justice degree is first offered online.

In 2011, the University announced the opening of a location in Austin, Texas, its first campus in the Southwest, and the expansion of the Master of Science in Nursing program with specializations in Adult Health Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner, and Nurse Educator. The University also expanded the campuses offering the Master of Science in Criminal Justice and Master of Science in Information Systems and Technology.

In 2012, the university opened locations in Cleveland, Ohio and High Point, North Carolina and officially merged with The Art Institute of Charlotte and Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, both of which became campuses of South University.

As part of its commitment to the Health Sciences, South University launched the Associate of Science degree in Occupational Therapy Assistant and announced the launch of post graduate certificates for nurses interested in advanced practice. The university also launched the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, which is designed as the highest degree for advanced practice nurses who wish to maintain nursing practice as their area of professional emphasis.

South University’s growth is a visible expression of its mission, as well as a response to the demand for a well-educated and highly trained workforce in public and private sectors. During the 2013-2014 academic year, the University is focused on expansion of its College of Nursing and Public Health and College of Health Professions programs across campus locations.

History by Year

1899
John Draughon established Draughon’s Practical Business College, launching a more than century of excellence in education in Savannah, Georgia.

1974
The family of John T. South III acquired the institution and changed its name to Draughon’s Junior College.

1976
Institution established a second campus in West Palm Beach, Florida.

1985
Received accreditation from The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to confer associate degrees.

1986
Draughon’s Junior College becomes South College.

1996
SACS accredits South University at bachelor’s level.

1997
South College merges its third campus in Montgomery, Alabama, and introduces a bachelor's degree in Physician Assistant Studies in Savannah.

2001
SACS accredits South College at the master’s level and becomes South University.

2002
South University merges its fourth campus in Columbia, South Carolina.

2002
SACS accredits University at doctoral level – the only institution of higher education in Savannah accredited at that level.

2003
First Doctor of Pharmacy class begins at the Savannah campus. Acquired by Education Management Corporation, one of the largest providers of private post-secondary education in North America.

2004
Master of Medical Science, Anesthesiologist program launches; online bachelor's degree programs in information technology and business administration begin.

2005
Online bachelor's degree programs in healthcare management, nursing, and criminal justice launches.

2006
Launched online master’s degrees in business administration, criminal justice and healthcare administration, Associate of Science degrees in Information Technology and Paralegal Studies, Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies, and Associate of Science in Business Administration. First students graduate with the Doctor of Pharmacy from South University’s School of Pharmacy. South University opens its Tampa, Florida campus. The new campus launches Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Bachelor of Science in Health Science degree program.

2007
University introduces MBA and MBA in Healthcare Administration degree programs at four campus locations. Launched Master of Science in Nursing, Bachelor of Science in Health Science, and Associate of Science in Accounting online. South University graduates its first online graduates. South University awards largest number of graduate degrees in the University’s history. The Savannah campus officially opens a new University library, more than tripling the size of its previous library. South University launches RN to BSN Degree Completion Program at Columbia, Tampa and West Palm Beach campus locations.

2008
South University online launches Associate of Science in Allied Health Science and Master of Science in Leadership and Information Systems and Technology.

2009
South University opens its Richmond and Virginia Beach, Virginia campuses. Online launches Master of Public Administration, Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and Accelerated RN to MSN degree programs.

2010
South University opens its Novi, Michigan and Austin, Texas campuses. South University launched ebooks. Online launches Associate of Science in Criminal Justice degree program. The Art Institute Dallas and The Art Institute Fort Worth merge into South University.

2012
South University opens its Cleveland, Ohio and High Point, North Carolina campuses. The Art Institute of Charlotte and Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina merge into South University

2013
South University launches the Doctor of Nursing Practice.