Saving Sweet Briar Requires Reinvention

#SaveSweetBriarAlumnae efforts to prevent Sweet Briar College from closing in August are laudable, but simply keeping it open isn’t enough.

Even if the Virginia Supreme Court reverses a lower court’s refusal to block the college’s closing, it’s hard to believe sufficient numbers of new students and their families will plunk down more than $40,000 a year to attend a college beset by uncertainty and deemed unsustainable by its leaders.

At this point, saving Sweet Briar needs more than a court victory. It needs a reinvention.

Reinvention could include a more focused academic mission that serves fewer disciplines and makes graduation possible faster. It could mean using technology differently, like the University of Florida’s experiment with some newly admitted freshmen. It could mean cutting some athletic programs, breaking from the traditional semester model or partnering with other institutions in ways that make higher education more affordable – for both families and the institution.

Serious Sweet Briar savers are likely already considering ideas like these and more.

By exploring different approaches and making the difficult decisions they require, an open-for-business Sweet Briar may chart a new path forward that inspires not just new students and families to follow, but other colleges nationwide that also struggle with cost and enrollment issues, too.

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