Tuesday, July 12, 2016

One year after nearly closing, Sweet Briar College in rural Virginia is beginning to rebound

Sweet Briar is about 12 miles north of Lynchburg, Va.
One year ago Sweet Briar College, a 114-year-old women's college in rural Virginia, was saved from closure, at least for the 2015-16 school year, largely in part to $12 million form alumni. The school's future was up in the air and many staff, faculty and students left for greener pastures. For those that stuck it out, the future could be bright.

Sweet Briar, which only had 240 students last fall—capacity is 800—is expecting 325 students this fall, Susan Svrluga reports for The Washington Post. The school has received $10.25 million in donations over the past 10 months, "five times the unrestricted funds it had raised annually in the past." Phillip Stone, the school's president, said in a statement: “2016 was a rebuilding year. We took over a mostly shuttered institution and could not start recruiting a new class until September of 2015, six months later than other institutions. The fact that we will have a student body of this size in such a short time is one more Sweet Briar miracle.”

Stone, who said the school came in $2 million under budget for this fiscal year, said it was the first time "the endowment was not touched." He said, "That is simply amazing when you consider we had a student body of only 40 percent of its previous size, were required by the settlement agreement to pay almost $5 million of severance to faculty and staff, and incurred more than $30 million of other costs due to the attempts to close.” That has the school's leaders looking to the future and a continued increase in enrollment in 2017.

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