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Area colleges rank high in report
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Brenau University, North Georgia College & State University and Piedmont College ranked among the nation’s best in higher education, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2010 edition of America’s Best Colleges.

Harvard University and Princeton University shared the national list’s top spot. The University of Georgia ranked No. 58 on the same list while local schools were recognized on other lists for their quality master’s degree programs and as good buys for students.

More than 1,400 institutions were included in various categories of the exclusive rankings based on assessment by all university presidents surveyed, graduation rates, average admission test scores and faculty-to-student ratio among other criteria.

For the fifth consecutive year, the report ranked Brenau University master’s programs as the 10th best education value in the 11 Southern states, according to a Brenau news release. With an average discount of 46 percent through grants based on need, 71 percent of Brenau graduate students pay about $17,200 in annual tuition.

And North Georgia College & State University was ranked in the "Least Debt" portion of the best buy rankings, with 56 percent of students having an average of $9,815 in debt.

The "Great Schools, Great Prices" rankings are based on the school’s academic quality as indicated by its 2010 U.S. News ranking, compared to the 2008-09 academic year net cost of attendance for a student who receives the average level of need-based financial aid.

Brenau University President Ed Schrader said the school budgets a generous amount of merit and need-based scholarships to reduce the "sticker price" for tuition, room and board. Schrader said he, too, was excited to see Brenau’s master’s program ranked as the South’s 34th best. That’s up from last year’s ranking as No. 39.

"You’re seeing the very beginning of a strategic plan," he said.

Schrader said that by 2025,
Brenau aims to grow its 2,700 student population to 5,000 largely by expanding its graduate program.

North Georgia College & State University ranked No. 56 in the rankings’ best university master’s programs in the South.

Kate Maine, spokeswoman for North Georgia College & State, said the school continues to maintain its quality faculty and students while offering even more master’s degree programs.

"Just this year, we have received approval for and/or have started new master’s degree programs in history, international affairs and music," she said in an e-mail. "We have also received approval for a minor in graphic design and criminal forensics. We have also just begun the second year of our MBA program. Further, we are expanding efforts to internationalize the campus and the curriculum."

Piedmont College’s master’s program also made the list. It ranked in the third tier, including schools ranked 60 through 88.

James Mellichamp, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Piedmont College, said for small private institutions like Piedmont, the magazine’s rankings are "rather like putting square pegs in round holes."

"We think of ourselves as a private, comprehensive liberal arts institution with an extensive graduate population," he said in an e-mail. "As a result, we find ourselves being compared to mostly large regional public universities. That said, we are flattered that the survey indicates we compare favorably with excellent institutions such as Kennesaw State University, Charleston Southern University and others with similarly fine reputations."

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