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Georgia Universities, Colleges Offer Something for Everyone

International students are flocking to Atlanta and Georgia schools in record numbers, coming to study at some of the world’s top colleges and universities while enjoying the unique cosmopolitan environment of a truly global city.

Georgia, like many U.S. states, has a wide variety of public and private colleges and universities offering numerous degree options. Students can obtain four-year and advanced degrees from universities; bachelor-level degrees from the colleges; and associates degrees from the two-year colleges. In addition, many students start their education in a two-year college and later transfer to a four-year degree program at another school.

The number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by 6% to a record high of 764,495 during the 2011/2012 academic year, according to the annual Open Doors report, published by the Institute of International Education (IIE) with support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.

The report shows Georgia ranking 12th among U.S. states with 16,193 foreign students – a 5.4% increase. The Georgia school with the highest foreign student enrollment was the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta with 4,973 students.  The other top five were Emory University (2,039 students), Georgia State University (GSU, with 1,578), both in Atlanta; the University of Georgia (UGA; 1,510) in Athens; and the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD, 1,392). China accounted for 23.16% of the state’s foreign students, followed by India (17.1%), South Korea (14.2%), and Taiwan (2.6%).

Public Colleges and Universities

The University System of Georgia oversees 35 institutions: four research universities, two regional universities, 13 state universities, 14 state colleges and two two-year colleges. Enrollment exceeded 314,000 students in the fall of 2012.

The flagship of the state system is the University of Georgia. For the fall 2012 quarter, UGA had more than 26,200 undergraduate and 8,000 graduate students enrolled at the main campus in Athens and four other campuses (two of which are in the Atlanta area). UGA has the most comprehensive variety of courses in the state, with schools and colleges focusing on medicine; law; public and international affairs; business; arts and sciences; agriculture and environmental sciences; education; and journalism and mass communications. UGA offers 22 baccalaureate degrees in more than 140 fields; 35 master’s degrees in 137 fields; 19 education degrees; five doctoral degrees in 96 areas; and professional degrees in law, pharmacy and veterinary medicine.

Georgia Tech is one of the nation’s top research universities, with an emphasis on technology education. Its campus in downtown Atlanta occupies 400 acres and hosts more than 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Ranked among the top 10 public universities, Georgia Tech offers degree programs through its colleges of architecture, computing, engineering, sciences, business and liberal arts.

Also located in downtown Atlanta, Georgia State University is the leading urban research university in the southeastern United States. GSU offers more than 250 degrees in 100 fields at the bachelor’s, master’s, specialist and doctoral levels. The university has eight schools and colleges focusing on law, education, policy studies, nursing, arts and sciences, public health, and business. More than 25,000 students have considerable flexibility to enroll in day or evening classes, and to attend GSU on a part-time or full-time basis.

Other major schools in the public system include:

- Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta, the third largest by student body with an enrollment exceeding 24,600. Best known for its business school, KSU offers degrees in natural and social sciences, finance, and arts.

- Georgia Southern University in Statesboro with more than 20,500 students. The liberal arts programs include industrial science, business administration, pre-law and pre-medicine. Georgia Southern and Valdosta State University (13,000 students), in the eastern and southern parts of the state, respectively, are the two regional universities in the system.

- Clayton State University, located 15 miles south of Atlanta, is one of the three state universities in the Atlanta metropolitan area. (The other two are KSU and Southern Polytechnic in Marietta.) Others within two hours’ drive of Atlanta include the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, and Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville.

- Georgia Perimeter College in Dunwoody, another Atlanta suburb, is the largest state college with enrollment of approximately 27,000. Others in the area include Atlanta Metropolitan State College, Gainesville State, Georgia Gwinnett, Gordon State and Georgia Highlands.

In addition to the two two-year colleges in the university system, the Technical College System of Georgia runs 25 other two-year colleges and technical institutes that graduate more than 32,000 students annually. While many students aspire to a four-year or advanced degree from a major university, the two-year and four-year colleges offer another alternative to attending all four years at one of the larger universities. For example, students whose grade point averages are not high enough to be accepted into the top schools can attend a two-year college, improve their grades, and then seek transfer to a four-year institution. Others might earn their bachelor’s degree from a four-year school and gain acceptance to a post-graduate program at a larger university.

Private Educational Institutions

In addition to a broad range of public education choices, Georgia and the Atlanta area are home to numerous private colleges and universities. Many are non-profits, while some operate as private businesses. The private schools range from small liberal arts colleges to universities offering post-graduate degrees in many subjects.

The largest is Emory University, a research university with more than 13,000 students in the Atlanta suburb of Decatur. Emory is recognized internationally for its outstanding liberal arts colleges, graduate and professional schools, and its healthcare system. While maintaining its emphasis on teaching, Emory also generates more than $500 million in research funding each year.

Other important private schools in the Atlanta area include:

- Oglethorpe University, a liberal arts and sciences university, with more than 1,000 students representing 28 countries. Oglethorpe features internship opportunities in Atlanta, which is home to a large concentration of Forbes 500 corporations and more than 1,250 multinationals.

- Brenau University, a liberal arts school with some 1,800 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students at three Atlanta area campuses and two other sites in western Georgia. Areas of study include business, education, management and accounting.

- Agnes Scott College, an independent national liberal arts college for women with more than 900 enrollees – 11 percent of which are international students. The college offers 34 undergraduate majors and 31 minors in such areas as computer science, engineering, pre-law and pre-medicine.

- Life University in Marietta, which specializes in health science and chiropractic education.

- Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) with more than 10,000 students. While headquartered on the Georgia coast in the historic city of Savannah, non-profit SCAD has a major campus in downtown Atlanta. In addition to visual and performing arts, majors at SCAD include education, communication, natural resources, and architecture.

These are only a few of the dozens of private colleges and universities that can be found throughout Georgia – all of whom attract the top students from around the world. Whether students are seeking a high-profile research university in a busy metropolitan area; a quiet college in a sleepy small town; or anything in between, Georgia truly has a school for every student’s needs.

Questions or comments? Please email Michael Fenton at mfenton@atlantapacificgroup.com