Sweet Briar lives on
Alumnae save women’s college from closure
Education is a big issue in Virginia. There is an ongoing debate about the rising cost of attending the commonwealth’s public colleges and universities and the increasing debt many students face. There also is plenty of discussion about the role education, especially at community colleges, should play in preparing a skilled workforce.
The biggest Virginia education story of 2015, however, involved a private women’s college in rural Amherst County.
The administration and board of trustees of Sweet Briar College announced in early March last year that the 114-year-old school would close in August because of “insurmountable” financial problems.
The shutdown, however, didn’t happen. It was opposed by alumnae, faculty and students who filed a series of legal challenges. Alums formed an organization called Saving Sweet Briar to raise money for the school.
Finally, in a mediated settlement announced in June, the president and board resigned, and the school was given at least one additional year to improve its enrollment and finances. The alumnae met one deadline in September when they turned over $3.6 million they had raised in just a few months.
The following pages offer a look at the enrollments at Virginia’s public and private colleges, including its community colleges.
The commonwealth’s second-biggest community college is Tidewater Community, the 17th largest associate degree producer among the nation’s two-year institutions. TCC is profiled on the next page as part of the magazine’s continuing series on the economic impact of Virginia’s colleges and universities.
Another story looks at the performance of endowments at Virginia colleges and universities. A national report finds that the average increase in the market value of endowments at more than 800 colleges and universities fell to 2.5 percent last year, down from 15.5 percent in fiscal year 2014.