Brenau’s emphasis on affordable, quality and meaningful education lands university in U.S. News & World Report rankings

Moira Weigel

For 140 years, Brenau University has provided prestigious higher education structured upon Brenau’s values of small class sizes, personal attention to individual students and reasonable costs. These values were nationally acknowledged Monday by U.S. News & World Report, which listed Brenau in several of its Best Colleges rankings.

“We are thankful to be recognized for what we have to offer here at Brenau,” said President Ed Schrader, “but we also know that rankings only scratch the surface of all we do. These measures are a glimpse into the high-quality education provided by our faculty, the personal attention we give to our students and the efforts we make to help them afford their educations. This is a piece of our story.”

U.S. News evaluates colleges and universities on 16 measures of academic quality. These measures include graduation rates, class sizes, financial resources, expert opinions and more. According to U.S. News: “Research shows the greater access students have to quality instructors, the more engaged they will be in class and the more they will learn and likely graduate.”

With a student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1, Brenau is on par with some of the nation’s best liberal arts institutions, including Bowdoin College, Carleton College and Davidson College.

At Brenau, 72 percent of undergraduate classes have fewer than 20 students, giving the university a higher percentage of small classes — and therefore opportunities for meaningful faculty-student interaction, according to Provost Jim Eck — than Bowdoin, Carleton, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Duke University, the University of Pennsylvania, Amherst College, Wellesley College, Middlebury College and Pomona College.

The National Survey of Student Engagement calls these educational experiences High-Impact Practices, which “represent enriching educational experiences that can be life-changing,” reads the survey’s 2015 report. “They typically demand considerable time and effort, facilitate learning outside of the classroom, require meaningful interactions with faculty and other students, encourage collaboration with diverse others, and provide frequent and substantive feedback.”

Brenau climbed 10 places to No. 47 on the list of Best Southern Regional Universities, ranking No. 3 in the state and above nearby peers including University of North Georgia (No. 58), Piedmont College (No. 63) and Columbus State University (No. 102). It was also listed No. 8 Best Ethnic and Economic Diversity. The private, not-for-profit institution’s emphasis on reasonable costs factored into its ranking on the Student Loan Debt at Graduation list, as well as the Regional Best Value ranking.

According to the Federal Student Aid Office of the U.S. Department of Education, Brenau University graduates in 2012 had a loan default rate of 4.9 percent. In 2013, it was 5 percent, and in 2014 it was 5.3 percent. The national average that year was 11.5 percent. Eck said these rates are “very low and competitive.”

The purpose of the Best Colleges rankings is to help prospective students and their families compare institutions as they look for the right school. In addition to the rankings, the publication provides statistical profiles for the more than 1,800 schools in its directory. These profiles include information about a school’s cost, financial aid policies, admissions requirements, student body and more. Learn more at