Sweet Briar College enrolled just under 100 new students this fall in its second admissions cycle since alumnae blocked an attempt by the small private women’s college’s former board to close it.
This year’s new class totals 95 new students -- 81 first-year students and 14 transfers. On-campus enrollment stands at approximately 300 this fall.
Enrollments are significantly below those of last year, when Sweet Briar reported 134 degree-seeking first-time freshmen and 22 other first-year degree-seeking students on its Common Data Set. Sweet Briar reported a total of 350 full-time undergraduate students last year and 376 students counting part-time and graduate students.
Sweet Briar’s former board announced plans in March of 2015 to close the college at the end of that academic year, citing an unfavorable admissions climate and enrollment trends. College leaders moved to close while the institution still had substantial resources to pay for winding down operations. But alumnae fought the move in court, eventually winning a deal to keep the college open under a new president and remade board.
In 2014-15, the last year before Sweet Briar was nearly closed, it enrolled 641 full-time undergraduates. Its enrollment totaled 700 when graduate and part-time students were counted.
President Meredith Woo shared this year’s enrollment total Monday in a letter marking the start of the new academic year and summarizing recent Board of Directors meetings. Woo also detailed plans to grow and revamp the college’s academic offerings.
Sweet Briar plans to put a new core curriculum in place in the fall of 2018, a set of a dozen courses organized around the theme of leadership. Faculty members are also developing three centers of excellence around human and environmental sustainability, science and technology, and collaboration with the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
Woo also wrote of some three-week courses and giving students the chance to attend year-round in order to earn a degree in three years. A student could then earn a master’s degree in her fourth-year.
The college has relied heavily on fund-raising for the last two years. Fund-raising for 2016-17 included $14 million in gifts and grants and $6.8 million in future pledges. Sweet Briar’s endowment was valued at $73.9 million as of the end of June. When the former board decided to close the college, its endowment stood at approximately $85 million.