Sweet Briar Will Survive, for Now

Sweet Briar College, the small women’s liberal arts school in Virginia that announced it was closing earlier this year, will stay open after all. How long this will work is pretty unclear, however. According to this piece at the Virginian-Pilot:

A judge has approved a mediated plan to keep Sweet Briar College afloat.

[Virginia Attorney General Mark] Herring announced the agreement to keep the 114-year-old women’s college open late Saturday. The agreement calls for an infusion of donated dollars raised by determined alumnae, a change of leadership and the use of endowed funds to launch the 2015-16 academic year.

Back in March Sweet Briar President James Jones siad the school had to close at the end of the year due to “unsurmountable financial difficulties.” This provoked intense anger and confusion among alumni and supporters, especially since the school still had an endowment of $84 million and a positive asset to debt ratio. Many wondered if other forces were pressing the school to close. A particularly bizarre rumor had it that the school was going to shutter so Disney could build a theme park on the campus.

SSB

All of that is settled now. Sweet Briar alumnae raised $12 million and the judge removed restrictions on $16 million of the college’s endowment.

But what happens next for the school? Loyal supporters have raised millions to keep their beloved institution afloat, but the structural problem—declining enrollment—hasn’t been solved yet.

Indeed, while the college will open next year, who knows how many students will show up? Over the last year many of the school’s roughly 90 full-time professors got other jobs. The college didn’t receive many applications for a new freshmen class and encouraged enrolled students to transfer out.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer