Sweet Briar's Incomplete Recovery

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Published by Inside Higher Ed

Still, others believe it is unlikely an institution of Sweet Briar’s size can overcome a 75-student gap during the summer melt period -- what college admissions officers call the months when some decide not to enroll at colleges to which they’ve already committed.

“That’s a long way to try to come back from,” said David Strauss, a principal at Art & Science Group, a Baltimore-based consulting strategy firm. “No one is going to make up from that much over the course of a summer.”

Art & Science Group performed research for Sweet Briar’s former Board of Directors in 2014 and 2015 before the decision to close. The work ended when the board moved to close the college. Strauss agreed not to discuss specifics of its research, other than to say that Sweet Briar could have made changes that would have required time, money and political capital that did not appear to be available to the board at the time.

“The marketplace would seem to have been demanding significant changes,” he said. “More broadly, institutions in its kind of location and institutions of its sort are generally challenged.”

Underlying the questions about whether Sweet Briar will draw students next year is a debate over whether it is changing enough to keep up with the trends. Some see the college as taking steps to explore new programs and attract international students, while others believe its current leaders are influenced too much by memories of the past.

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