Brenau enrollment sets new high-water mark

Nov 30, 2011
Rudi Kiefer

Brenau University set a new record for total enrollment with 2,819 students, topping the previous high-water mark for official enrollment that it set last year with 2,769 students.

The record includes for the first time more than a thousand graduate students in various university programs, including the 15 students in its first doctoral program – candidates for the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. It also includes 507 students in both undergraduate and graduate school programs who take all their courses from the university through its fast-growing online academic programs. That group is among the 1,379 students at Brenau who are taking at least one course online during the fall semester.

“These numbers are absolutely indicative of where the university is going,” said Brenau President Ed Schrader during his report to the Brenau University Board of Trustees during its meeting on the Brenau campus Friday, Nov. 4. The numbers, Schrader added, track projections in the Brenau 2025 strategic plan, which aims to double enrollment at the university to about 5,000 students primarily through growth in online programs and graduate studies.

Although enrollments fluctuate throughout the academic year and historically increase slightly during spring term, the university uses month-end October enrollments as the “official” number that it reports to the U.S. Department of Education’s statistical branch.

Scott Briell, senior vice president for enrollment management and student services at the 134-year-old institution, said that enrollments for the residential Women’s College are at 864 this year. He and other Brenau officials said that the slight decline from last year’s 895 can be attributed in part to lingering uncertainties about the U.S. and global economy. However, total enrollment of nonresidential undergraduate students on the Gainesville campus partially offsets that decline.

Brenau also maintains coeducational programs at Georgia campuses in Augusta, Kings Bay, North Atlanta/Norcross, and South Atlanta/Fairburn – all of which posted enrollment increases.

In the Brenau 2025 Strategic Plan Brenau envisions capping enrollments in the Women’s College at between 900 and 1,000 students, or about 20 percent of total enrollment. Currently the Women’s College student body represents about 31 percent of the total.

Brenau’s fully accredited online program, which has six undergraduate and 10 graduate degree tracks, have grown by 265 percent in the past seven years.

Schrader attributed that surge to economic trends among people in their 30s and 40s and older who return to academia to burnish their credentials for an increasingly competitive job market. Since many of those students are already working, trying to fit improving their educations into busy careers and personal lives, studying online is an extremely attractive option.

Also, for those who enroll for programs on campus, online course availability provides additional course scheduling flexibility, Schrader said.

“What we have done in the past few years is remove the hurdles between educational platforms.”