Women’s liberal arts college Sweet Briar College announced Tuesday that the school would close following the spring 2015 semester, despite having an endowment valued at close to $US100 million.
Sweet Briar administrators cited several trends that informed the decision to close, including the declining number of female students interested in all-women colleges and the dwindling number of students overall interested in small, rural liberal arts colleges.
Unsurprisingly, similar colleges are taking steps to assure students that their schools are financially safe and stable. Hollins University — a small, all-women’s college that is one of Sweet Briar’s biggest rivals — released a somewhat boasting statement Tuesday to assure students that the two “have historically been very different schools.”
Read the Hollins University statement in full below:
We are saddened to learn that Sweet Briar College has announced its intention to close at the end of the current semester. While Hollins and Sweet Briar have enjoyed a lively rivalry for decades, the foundation of our relationship with one another has always been rooted in a strong spirit of sisterhood. However, Hollins and Sweet Briar have historically been very different schools.
Hollins is strong and growing stronger as we approach our 175th anniversary in 2017. For example:
- In contrast to the daunting fiscal challenges at Sweet Briar, we are on solid financial footing, operating with no debt.
- Thanks in large part to the generosity of our alumnae, our endowment has reached a record $US180 million, making it the fifth largest among all independent colleges in Virginia.
- Our most recent fundraising campaign, completed in 2010, raised $US162 million, and remains the largest of any southern women’s college.
We see evidence of the value of the educational experience at Hollins every day:
- Students from 44 states and 17 countries are enrolled here.
- Applications for undergraduate admission are at the highest level in 12 years.
- The quality and diversity of applicants to our undergraduate and eight coed graduate programs is outstanding.
- We are growing our academic programs. Last year, we added a new honours program, a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental sciences, new graduate certificates in playwriting, and a graduate program in children’s book writing and illustration.
Young women come to Hollins eager to learn, ready to take chances, and poised to begin the next chapter of life. But when they emerge, they aren’t just graduates in liberal arts, mathematics, or science; they are leaders, decision makers, and cultural shapers. Hollins students develop a strong sense of self and a clear path to success. We will work closely with Sweet Briar in the next few months to create openings for their current students to share the Hollins experience and complete their degree programs in a women’s college environment. It will be up to the students to decide if Hollins or another college or university is the right fit for them.
This is a difficult time for our friends at Sweet Briar. But here at Hollins, with no debt, a strong endowment, a growing applicant pool, and incredibly loyal and generous alumnae, we remain optimistic about the path that lies ahead. We are committed to quality women’s undergraduate liberal arts education and coeducational graduate programs, and passionate about inspiring tomorrow’s leaders. At the same time, we know the future makes no promises to anyone. We will continue our efforts to preserve and strengthen Hollins for the next 175 years.
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