Sweet Briar College announced on Mar. 3 that it will close on Aug. 25. The current students and their parents were notified by email and, shortly after, the news was announced to the public on the college’s Facebook page.
Sweet Briar’s Board of Trustees decided that closure was the best option given the college’s current financial situation. They did not believe that other options would be able to provide enough funding to keep the school open.
Sweet Briar alum Meg Richburg said, “I am livid that the Board of Directors had such little belief in our ability to rally and help our school.”
Several colleges have volunteered to be part of a ‘Teach Out’ program, where current Sweet Briar students can easily transfer into the schools listed to complete their degrees. Many other schools have their information posted on Sweet Briar’s website and have specific links for Sweet Briar students to follow to create an easy transfer situation.
Wilson’s Melony Wagner ’16 said, “It will be exciting to have a new group of students joining the Wilson community.” Many other Wilson students are also excited about the possibility of having some of the Sweet Briar students attend Wilson.
Wilson alum Karly Bowe ’09 said, “I feel if any students decide to transfer to Wilson they will find a similar ‘home’ feeling I’m sure they feel at Sweet Briar College.”
Potential student Lauren Hammer stated that, “I always envisioned myself attending Sweet Briar.” She added,“When I heard they closed, I was shocked. They gave no hint of financial issues to anyone. The students and staff were blindsided.” Sweet Briar had accepted students into the class of 2019. Now those students are left with a limited amount of time to find, apply, and figure out the logistics of attending another college.
The Sweet Briar community has come together to attempt to save the school. A law suit headed by Amherst County Attorney Ellen Bowyer is in the process of being filed. Saving Sweet Briar Inc. was formed to raise money and support the school remaining open and so far they have raised over $3.3 million. A “Saving Sweet Briar 5k” is being planned. The hashtag #SaveSweetBriar is popping up on Facebook, Twitter, bumper stickers, t-shirts and more. Many Wilson College alums have joined together to do what they can to keep Sweet Briar open. Bowe said, “I believe that there is still a need and a place for women’s colleges” and would therefore be sad to see another one fail.
Sweet Briar alum Richburg said, “I am heartbroken for the current students at Sweet Briar. I cannot imagine the shock and despair they felt on March 3rd and in the days and weeks since.” She urges current students to “Concentrate on your classes. Come up with your Plan B and even a plan C, D and E because that is what a Sweet Briar Woman does. Love each other, enjoy each other, laugh and continue on with whatever semblance of normalcy you can.”
College is currently accepting applications from Sweet Briar students and several are in contact with the college regarding transfer policies. Bowe believes that Wilson College continues to attract “students that want to be part of a community on campus. One that supports each other whole heartedly.”
Renee Bouche ’17 says that she hopes the potential Sweet Briar transfers will “enjoy it here as much as we do.”
The closing of Sweet Briar urges the collegiate community to wonder what the future holds for other women’s liberal arts colleges.