From left to right, Stephanie Reyes, Jesse Smith and Alexis Satterfield listen as Gnimbin Ouattara, associate professor of history, gives them instructions (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)
From left to right, Stephanie Reyes, Jesse Smith and Alexis Satterfield listen as Gnimbin Ouattara, associate professor of history, gives them instructions (AJ Reynolds/Brenau University)

Seeing Students Thrive: Brenau Excels in ‘U.S. News & World Report’ Rankings

Sep 20, 2017
Kristen Bowman

Brenau University stood out among top colleges and universities around the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s “2018 Best Colleges” for its small average class size and 10-to-1 student-faculty ratio – both key indicators of academic excellence.

“When 80.4 percent of classes have fewer than 20 students, that’s very impressive,” said Brenau Provost Jim Eck, the university’s top academic officer. “That is a higher percentage, according to the U.S. News data than top national universities including Princeton, Harvard, University of Chicago, Yale, MIT, Stanford, Penn, Duke and Cal Tech, and it is greater than some of the top liberal arts colleges in the nation, including Davidson, Wellesley, Amherst, Bowdoin, Williams and Middlebury.”

In addition, the student-faculty ratio is a strong indicator of the high-quality, personal, educational experiences provided by institutions like Brenau, Eck added.

“Students often learn more and have better opportunities for academic integration when instruction occurs in settings that promote regular and frequent contact between faculty and students,” he said. “We want our students to thrive, and we believe that they can do so best when they are not lost in an overflowing lecture hall with hundreds of students.”

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) agrees. The higher education research and advocacy organization with more than 1,300 member institutions, says that providing learning environments with more opportunities for individual students and faculty to interact personally is a “high-impact educational practice.” For example, the association credits first-year seminars and experiences with fostering academic and social integration that promotes student retention. In Brenau’s program for incoming freshmen, students have the opportunity to meet and interact with instructors and professors across all academic disciplines.

U.S. News provides its Best Colleges Rankings each year to help students narrow their college search. In addition to the rankings, prospective students can explore profiles for the more than 1,800 schools in the Best Colleges directory. These profiles include information from the class sizes and student-faculty ratios to tuition costs, financial aid policies, admissions requirements, and more.

The publication also creates ranked lists based on prospective student interests. Brenau landed in four lists: Best Colleges for Veterans, Best Value Schools, Best Regional Universities South and Best Campus Ethnic Diversity.

Brenau was the only private Georgia institution in the “Best Schools for Veterans” category, where it also ranked high regionally.

In summer 2006, Brenau President Ed Schrader attended a worldwide symposium on military education and decided to create a reduced tuition rate of $250 per credit hour for military students and to give veterans and spouses a 10 percent tuition discount. Implemented in 2009 and originally offered only for online classes, the Brenau Military Discount Program now covers all platforms to include on-ground classes at all five campuses. Last academic year, Brenau had about 245 military students, including 54 students on active duty, as well as 80 female and 60 male veterans.

“This ranking in particular means a great deal to me and to this institution,” Schrader said. “We have worked very hard with veterans and those currently enlisted in all branches of the armed forces to ensure that we are providing the education they need to begin the next chapter of their lives.”

In the Regional Universities category, Brenau was the No. 2 private college in the state, ranking only after Berry College in Rome, Georgia. Brenau ranked well above the nearby public University of North Georgia in Dahlonega and Piedmont College in Demorest.

Finally, Brenau was the No. 1 Georgia college on the Campus Ethnic Diversity list, and No. 6 in the region, developed for college-bound students who believe that studying with people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds is important. To identify the colleges where students are most likely to encounter undergraduates from various racial or ethnic groups, U.S. News factors in the total proportion of minority students, not including international students, and the overall mix of groups.