SWEET BRIAR, Va. — Sweet Briar College, a women’s college near Lynchburg, will close at the end of the current academic semester, the university announced Tuesday. “Insurmountable financial challenges,” was the reason given for the board of directors vote to close the school. Around 600 students currently attend the school. Sweet Briar said it would work with those students to help them transfer to other schools.
“This is a sad day for the entire Sweet Briar College community,” Paul G. Rice, Sweet Briar College board chair, said in a statement. “The board closely examined the College’s financial situation and weighed it against our obligations to current and prospective students, parents, faculty and staff, alumnae, donors and friends. We voted to act now to cease academic operations responsibly, allowing us to place students at other academic institutions, to assist faculty and staff with the transition and to conduct a more orderly winding down of academic operations.”
When students return to campus from spring break on March 15, Sweet Briar said it would host on-campus college fairs to “help match current students with transfer opportunities.” That includes students who planned to attend Sweet Briar this fall.
“While the College has long been part of my life, as my wife is a 1969 graduate, my role as president has taken on more meaning than I could ever describe,” President James F. Jones Jr. said. “The board, some key alumnae and I have worked diligently to find a solution to the challenges Sweet Briar faces. This work led us to the unfortunate conclusion that there are two key realities that we could not change: the declining number of students choosing to attend small, rural, private liberal arts colleges and even fewer young women willing to consider a single-sex education, and the increase in the tuition discount rate that we have to extend to enroll each new class is financially unsustainable.”
Sweet Briar’s final commencement ceremony will be May 16. The school has planned a final on-campus Reunion Weekend May 29-31, 2015. The college will close – for good – August 25, 2015.
“As we faced this difficult decision, our guiding principle has been to enable the Sweet Briar community members to hold their heads high, knowing the College exited higher education with honor and integrity,” Elizabeth H.S. Wyatt ’69, vice chair of the board of directors, said. “If we make the decision to close now, we will have a better opportunity to conclude academic operations in an orderly, compassionate and ethical way that pays homage to those who are here today and to those who came before us.”
Are you a Sweet Briar student or alumnae? Email us your thoughts here or leave them in the comments below.