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Brenau announces plans to expand
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Brenau University President Ed Schrader talks about the process that led to the strategic plan for the school's future.

Brenau is poised to embark upon a 15-year strategic plan that, upon completion, school officials hope will make it one of the pre-eminent universities on the East Coast.

“This is a goal that by 2025, Brenau University will be a nationally recognized, regionally exemplary doctoral-level institution,” Brenau President Ed Schrader said Saturday evening. “We’ve got a number of unique ways to define regionally exemplary that I think are very cutting-edge that are going to make Brenau a pre-eminent name in academic circles, but also going to do great things for Gainesville and Hall County.”

The strategic plan, which comes with it a commitment to spend some $40 to $55 million on facilities, faculty and scholarships, was approved Friday at the spring meeting of the university’s board of trustees. The announcement was made Saturday after the bi-annual meeting ended.

The sweeping plan calls for doubling enrollment from the current 2,578 to 5,000 by 2025, adding degree programs, shortening the calendar time it takes to earn degrees and enriching cross-discipline curriculum based on four “portals” of learning.

Pete Miller, chairman of the Brenau trustees, the school will maintain the highest academic standards for students.

“We believe Brenau University can fill a void that now exists for leadership in liberal arts graduate and degree programs,” he said. “We believe this university will set the standard by which other liberal arts institutions will be measured.”

Schrader explained that funds for the expansion plan will come from a combination of operating budgets funded through tuition and fundraising. Much of the fundraising done by Brenau each year is private, but Schrader said the school could also conduct public fundraising events, though they have no plan to do so at this time.

He admits that funding such an aggressive plan for growth is one of the challenges. Though he said it will require finding sources of funding outside of the typically arenas of support for Brenau, he is confident in the support the school has from the local community.

“I’ve never seen the community support around a private school as Gainesville and Hall County support Brenau,” Schrader said. “And I’ve never seen a school that’s so interactive with the community ... it really goes both ways. It’s a really great place to be.

The expansion of programs and subsequent growth expected by school leaders will mean changes for all four campuses: Gainesville, Atlanta, Augusta and Kings Bay. Schrader said likely more than half of the millions committed to the university’s expansion plan will have to be spent on facilities, with some 70 to 75 percent of that being spent on the Gainesville campus. He said needs already identified include a multi-use academic complex, a bigger student union, new dorms and renovations for existing dorms. Other needs, he said, likely would become apparent as the university begins adding degree programs.

Some 75 percent of the university’s current enrollment is undergraduates enrolled in the Women’s College, Evening and Weekend College programs on all four campuses and online programs. The strategic plan calls for increasing those enrolled in graduate programs to 50 percent of the university’s total enrollment by 2025.

Schrader said the types of graduate programs the school plans to add will be “market-driven by career needs or driven by community and social needs, so that the students are waiting in line to participate in those programs.” He pointed to the recent growth in the school’s nursing program, especially in the graduate degree programs, as an example of the type of programs the school plans to emphasize.

Degree programs the university plans to add include clinical doctorates in occupational therapy, nursing, psychology and other professions; doctorates in education; expanded masters programs in education, nursing education and administration, interior design; profession-focused masters in disciplines like project management and health care administration; and terminal masters of fine arts and Ph.D. tracks in the arts and other academic programs.

Schrader said the university's expansion plan doesn't account for the possibility of a medical school, which still is being studied by a consultant hired by the school. He said Brenau plans to expand "with or without" the medical school; any plans and funding for that project would be independent of the strategic plan approved this weekend.

The university’s president is adamant that while the plan is to beef up the co-educational segments of Brenau, the Women’s College is a cornerstone of the university that isn’t going to go away.

“The Women’s College is central to our being and if anything it will be stronger and we will invest in it and our intention is it will be the premiere single-sex education program in the eastern United States when it comes to women’s colleges,” Schrader said. “Our aspiration is nothing less than the best.”

He pointed out that in the last 30 years that the number of women’s colleges in the United States has dropped from a high of 300 to 51 currently.

“We have a strong enrollment in our Women’s College and we’re serious about supporting it and seeing it flourish,” he said.

In addition to approving the strategic plan, Schrader said the trustees also approved the school largest annual operating budget to date at $40 million, which translates into about $80 million in economic impact. He explained that by 2025, the expanded college will have an annual budget of some $80 million and contribute $160 million to the local economy.

Kit Dunlap of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce agreed that the university is a great contributor to the local community.

“I think that sometimes we take Brenau for granted because it has been here for many, many years and is just part of our community,” Dunlap said. “But the economic impact that Brenau has is just marvelous.”

She added that having a college is an asset that companies look for when deciding to locate in Hall County.

As an alumnae and member of the board of trustees, she said she also is personally proud of the university’s plans.

“It’s so exciting to see that Brenau has this vision, particularly for women,” Dunlap said. “I like that they particularly are getting into health care care is in everybody’s mind, so I think Brenau’s moving in that right direction. And they’re also moving in the right direction with the facilities that they’ll need in the next 20 years.”

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