NORCROSS - Brenau University expects at least a 6 percent growth in enrollment this year, a number attributed to a 31 percent surge in students registering for online degree programs as well as increases in students signing up for graduate programs.
Enrollment at the residential Women's College in Gainesville is expected to stay steady at about 850 students, according to Scott Briell, senior vice president for enrollment and student services. Overall, however, the number of nontraditional students in coeducational undergraduate and graduate programs in Gainesville and at regional campuses, including the North Atlanta campus in Norcross, is increasing. Other regional campuses are located in Augusta, Kings Bay and Fairburn (South Atlanta).
This time last year, the university had about 2,300 students signed up and had registered more than 2,500 by the time official numbers were posted in October. This year, there are more than 2,430 students already registered.
Enrollment for Brenau's fully accredited online program, which has six undergraduate and 10 graduate degree tracks, has jumped from 262 at this time last year to 344.
About 10 percent of Brenau's student body is from Gwinnett. About 245 Gwinnettians are Women's College residential students or commuters to the university's campuses in Gainesville and Norcross. About 30 have signed up for the online program.
As of Aug. 15, enrollment was 16.6 percent higher at the North Atlanta campus than the year before, according to the university's Office of Institutional Research. The campus had 365 registered students, compared to 313 in 2008. Last fall, the campus' official enrollment was 367. Officials project 426 students will attend the Norcross campus this year.
Briell attributes much of the growth to economic factors such people in their 30s and 40s and older coming back to school to improve their credentials to make them more competitive in the job market.
"Our adult education programs are really kicking it," Briell said. "People are entering degree programs that will help them change careers, or they are seeking graduate degrees in their current field to make them more employable."
For the fifth consecutive year, Brenau has been ranked as the 10th best education value in the South by the magazine U.S. News & World Report, and the 131-year-old institution jumped from 39th to 34th among all similar colleges and universities in an 11-state region.
Brenau's rankings appear among the magazine's listings of colleges and universities whose highest academic programs lead to master's degrees. The only other Georgia institution in the best value top 10, Mercer, offers doctoral and professional degrees, but not enough of those programs to have bumped the Macon-based university into the magazine's doctoral degree-granting category.
The overall U.S. News 2010 rankings are based on assessments by all the university presidents surveyed, graduation rates, average admission test scores, faculty/student ratio and other criteria.
"We are seeing a significant increase in the numbers of older students who are coming back into the classroom to complete degrees, get advanced degrees or prepare for a change in their careers to improve their standing in the job market," Brenau President Ed Schrader said. "Obviously they see the same thing that the magazine survey shows - that Brenau offers a cost-effective, high-quality higher education option."
The rankings, which include more than 1,400 schools nationwide, are available at www.usnews.com/colleges and will also be published in the 2010 edition of America's Best Colleges by U.S. News Media Group and in the September issue of the U.S. News & World Report magazine, available on newsstands now.
Classes begin Monday at all of Brenau's locations.
SideBar: At a glance
The following chart shows the number of students enrolled at Brenau University's North Atlanta campus in Norcross for the past five years. Officials project 426 students will attend this campus this year.
Source: Brenau University