Three area universities made the 2012 edition of Best Colleges, a peer ranking system put out by the U.S. News Media Group.
North Georgia College & State University ranked 18th among regional public universities. Brenau University was in the top for regional private universities, and Gainesville State College ranked 49th out of regional colleges.
"Every school in the southeastern United States is included in these rankings. The top tier they rank from one to 100, the next tier they just list alphabetically," said Ed Schrader, president at Brenau University.
Best Colleges ranks schools in four categories: National universities, liberal arts colleges, regional colleges and regional universities.
Schrader said this was the fourth year Brenau ranked in the top tier of regional universities. The college has been "progressively climbing" the list.
"This ranking is a strong indication of our student success, both in terms of academic rigor and students' work toward degree completion," said Kate Maine, director of university relations for North Georgia. "We've been in the top 25 of this survey for the past eight years."
Sloan Jones, director of public relations and marketing for Gainesville State, said many of the qualifications the rankings are based on are ones the college prides itself on.
"We're excited about the fact that we're the highest (University System of Georgia) institution in that list," she said.
The three area schools are among several ranked Georgia institutions.
Mercer University, Georgia College & State University, Piedmont College, Kennesaw State University and Valdosta State University were all ranked as top regional universities along with Brenau and North Georgia. These are universities in the South "that offer undergraduate and master's level programs but few, if any, doctoral programs," according to a news release.
LaGrange College and Covenant College were two of many state schools ranked in the regional college category, which lists colleges that focus on undergraduate education but fewer than half of their degrees are in the liberal arts, according to the Best Colleges website.
Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Georgia were ranked 20, 36 and 62 out of national universities.
The U.S. News rankings are a commonly used research tool for future college students and parents, according to a news release. However, Schrader cautioned, students should base their college decisions on their own environment and career, not just this and other surveys.
The 2012 Best Colleges edition examined 1,378 accredited four-year schools to put the rankings together.
Rankings are influenced by several factors, including tuition, total enrollment, fall acceptance rate and average freshman retention rate.
"Our six-year graduation rate is at about 50 percent and is much higher than the average of 34 percent for other state universities in Georgia," North Georgia President Bonita Jacobs said in a news release. "Our retention rate of 81 percent is exemplary. We have outstanding students and a world-class faculty and staff that contribute to an excellent academic reputation."