By Matt Jorgensen
Recently the small liberal arts all-women’s college Sweet Briar announced its permanent closure after the summer session of this year due to “insurmountable financial challenges.” There wasn’t any indication of its closing beforehand, causing an uproar in both the student population and a number of the faculty. It was an unexpected declaration that now has students scrambling trying to find ways to transfer at the last minute. According to “The College Fix” about 40% of the school’s faculty lives in the private campus’ vicinity. These houses have to be vacated by August, meaning faculty are not only losing their current positions but also their own homes. In previous years, the college encouraged its faculty to construct homes on the property that the institution owns. This caused sixty five faculty members to pass a resolution opposing the board’s autonomous decision to close the college on March 16th.
One Sweet Briar student in the graduating class of 2016 spoke about the closure. She will remain anonymous due to personal request.
“We had no idea that the financial issues were this bad until this semester. There were hints here and there of monetary problems because certain courses were being taken off the schedule. But other than that, we were not expecting this.”
The closure has liberal arts students and faculty around the region nervous that their institutions would have similar conflicts and give no warning. One article off of Market Watch discussed the issue. “The trend is likely to accelerate in the coming years, as colleges cope with lower tuition revenue due in part to lackluster enrollment, students worry about employment prospects and being saddled with debt after graduation.”
Sweet Briar alumni and faculty are trying to take a stand against the sudden closure by raising funds and taking legal action. Students, for the most part, are hoping the school provides enough of its endowment to assist them in transferring.
It is unclear what other establishments might be affected by enrollment issues in terms of loans, debt, and grants, but some institutions shouldn’t have to worry. Roanoke College, for example, has a stable endowment and has in fact been rising through the ranks on best schools lists; thanks to better enrollment and a very supportive alumni base.