Virginia's Sweet Briar to close, part of drop in U.S. women's colleges

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 03, 2015 5:33 PM

By Gary Robertson

RICHMOND, Va. (Reuters) - Virginia's cash-strapped Sweet Briar College will close at the end of the summer, administrators said on Tuesday, part of a sharp decline in the number of U.S. women's schools.

The 114-year-old school near Lynchburg is closing because of “insurmountable financial challenges,” President James Jones said. The board of directors made the decision on Saturday.

"The current semester will be our last, and the class of 2015 will be our final graduating class,” Jones said in a video post on the school's website.

Sweet Briar’s closure is part of a rapid decline in the number of women’s colleges. The Women’s College Coalition website says that in 1960 there were 230 women’s schools, but by 2014 that number had shrunk to 47.

In the fall of 2014, Sweet Briar reported 560 degree-seeking undergraduates enrolled on campus and nine graduate students, along with 328 employees, according to local media.

School officials said the number of accepted students who had chosen to enroll was at an all-time and unsustainable low.

Sweet Briar Rector Paul Rice said in a video post that fewer students were choosing to attend small, private, liberal arts schools in rural areas, and fewer women were choosing single-sex colleges.

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Jones said Sweet Briar was focusing on helping students transfer to other institutions, and helping faculty and staff as the college winds down academic operations. The college will close on Aug. 25.

Sweet Briar is on a sprawling 3,200-acre campus in Amherst County about 150 miles southwest of Washington. It was known nationally for its equestrian teams.

It had recently completed a nearly $9 million library renovation.

(Reporting by Gary Robertson; Editing by Ian Simpson and Eric Beech)