The Wall Street Journal reports that Sweet Briar College, a humble women’s college located near the base of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, has announced its closing this coming August due to “financial challenges.”
The news brings to light the various changes undergone by liberal arts universities, as students not only consider costs of education, but also their careers in the future.
As one of the few liberal arts colleges for women in the US, Sweet Briar has witnessed an 8% decrease of undergraduate enrollments in the past five years.
James Jones Jr., president of Sweet Briar, cited the rapid decline of enrollments and “financially unsustainable” discounts to tuition fees as the major problems the school has faced, prompting the institution to suspend retirement benefits and dismiss several staff members to make way for incoming revenue.
A coeducational model was considered as per similar moves done by fellow single-sex schools, but Paul G. Rice, school board chairman, found the plan insufficient when it comes to providing a sustainable platform.
“We have moral and legal obligations to our students and faculties and to our staff and to our alumnae. If you take up this decision too late, you won’t be able to meet those obligations,” Rice told Inside Higher Ed, which posted the news on March 3.
On Saturday, the school board voted to close Sweet Briar. As Rice put it, the early announcement would give students plenty of time to choose other schools for next year, especially now that the college is in negotiations with four other schools in Virginia to transfer an unspecified number of students.
According to The WSJ, Sweet Briar witnessed a $94 million endowment at the end of the fiscal year 2014. Now, the amount totals close to $84 million. The school looks forward to pursue legal judgment when it comes to handling the remaining restricted $56 million funds.