Auburn University today is a comprehensive land, sea and space grant institution – among the few that hold that distinction – occupying more than 1,840 acres and helping fulfill the dreams of nearly 25,000 students.
The university began, though, as the small, more humble East Alabama Male College, which was chartered in 1856 and opened its doors in 1859 as a private liberal arts institution.
From 1861 to 1866 the college was closed because of the Civil War. The college had begun an affiliation with the Methodist Church before the war. Due to dire financial straits, the church transferred legal control of the institution to the state in 1872, making it the first land-grant college in the South to be established separate from the state university. It thus became the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama.
A land-grant college or university is an institution that has been designated by its state legislature or Congress to receive the benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The original mission of these institutions, as set forth in the first Morrill Act, was to teach agriculture, military tactics, and the mechanical arts as well as classical studies so that members of the working classes could obtain a liberal, practical education.
Women were admitted in 1892, making Auburn the oldest four-year, coeducational school in the state and the second-oldest in the Southeast. In 1899, the name was again changed to the Alabama Polytechnic Institute. In 1960, the school officially acquired the name it has long been called and one more in keeping with its location, size, and mission — Auburn University. The institution has experienced its greatest growth since World War II, and now has more than 250,000 graduates.
Auburn University at Montgomery was established as a separately accredited campus in 1967. The institution has developed rapidly, especially since moving to a 500-acre campus east of Montgomery in 1971. Current enrollment at AUM is about 5,200.