Brenau University enrollment holds steady as classes commence

Aug 29, 2011
Rudi Kiefer

Originally published on 8/26/11

Since the introduction of online and graduate programs dramatically boosted registrations a few years ago, Brenau University’s numbers are holding steady with a total enrollment of 2,735 students for this academic year compared with 2,744 in 2010.

“We are, more or less, at the same numbers we had last year, and for a private institution in this challenging economy, we feel good about maintaining levels that have been enjoying historic highs over the past decade,” said Scott Briell, senior vice president for enrollment and student services at the 134-year-old institution.

Enrollments at the residential Women’s College in Gainesville total 856, compared to 860 at this time last year, with 183 first-year students and another 146 transferring in from other colleges and universities. Brenau also maintains coeducational programs at Georgia campuses in Augusta, Kings Bay, North Atlanta/Norcross, and South Atlanta/Fairburn. For Brenau’s fully accredited online program, which has six undergraduate and 10 graduate degree tracks, the numbers steadily have increased to 473 this year.

The university, which recently established the Sydney O. Smith Jr. Graduate School for advanced and terminal degrees, has enrolled 13 students in its new Doctor of Nursing Practice program. “We are in the process of doing feasibility studies on other programs for the graduate school,” Briell said, “in areas including business, education, and occupational therapy, or OT, which is booming in popularity right now because of the health care market.”

Included in those numbers is a contingent of international students from countries as diverse as China, Brazil, Japan, Korea, Great Britain and Afghanistan. Brenau participates in the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women, a national, nonprofit scholarship fund. “The Afghani student in this program grew up in one of the most war-torn and impoverished parts of that country, so we believe she will really benefit from the education Brenau offers, while we benefit from her presence on campus,” Briell said.

New students have been settling in with a mix of nervous smiles and confident hand-shakes.

“I came here because I wanted to get outside of my comfort zone,” said first-year student Brittney King, who grew up in Macon, Ga. “I have not picked out a major yet, but I am here with an open mind, to see what I’ll discover about myself. From what I’ve seen so far, I think Brenau will be a blast.”

Added Amber Howard from a conflict resolution and legal studies major from Rutledge, Tenn. “Even if you’re different, you fit in here. I get the sense that Brenau encourages you to be yourself. You don’t have to pretend to be anything else.”

The university still is benefitting from a dramatic six percent increase in its 2009 enrollment, fueled by online studies. Briell attributed that surge to economic trends among people in their 30s and 40s and older who return to the classroom to burnish their credentials for an increasingly competitive job market.

“Our adult education programs are still thriving,” said Briell. “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.”

The breakdown of the 2011 enrollment numbers plays into Brenau’s long-range strategic plan, which encourages students who enroll as college freshmen to continue on to graduate or professional school.

Brenau expects to expand to 5,000 students in the next decade, with most of the growth in graduate programs. Many of these students will complete some or all of their courses in online studies. In that scenario, the university plans to cap the enrollment of the Women’s College at about 800 or 900 students as it becomes an increasingly more selective undergraduate institution.

Classes begin on Monday, August 29.