The Residential Liberal Arts Elephant in the Room

The Residential Liberal Arts Elephant in the Room

The closing of Sweet Briar College – is it a harbinger of things to come, for other residential colleges?

300 Words, 2 Minutes

This Spring, Administrative Officers across the country got to speak to their nervous boards and alumni, to allay fears that their schools wouldn’t be the next Sweet Briar College (which indicated it would be closing at the end of the Summer 2015 term, after precipitously deciding – over a single weekend – to shutter the 114 year old women’s college).

What little is known of the decision to close Sweet Briar is troubling to many liberal arts schools. The barely unspoken fear: Is this us in a few years?

Sweet Briar is an extremely small school: only 513 students. The school has an endowment of $84 million dollars – which isn’t substantially different from many other small residential colleges – but with most of these funds being restricted. Their bond rating was downgraded from “stable” to BBB “negative” by S&P, and reportedly the school hasn’t enough usable cash to pay down debt. And, while their…

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