Brenau University Offers Assistance to Sweet Briar Students, Faculty and Staff
Brenau University today offered to match scholarships and financial discount packages to all Sweet Briar College students who elect to continue their educations at Brenau.
Sweet Briar, a women’s college in Lynchburg, Virginia, announced earlier this week that it would close its doors forever at the end of the current academic year after 114 years of operation. With the announcement, 137-year-old Brenau becomes one of the 41 remaining members of the U.S. Women’s College Coalition.
Although Brenau has about 3,000 students in undergraduate and graduate programs on several campuses and online, it started solely as a women’s college in 1878 and so remained for close to a century. The residential Women’s College currently has about 850 students.
Brenau offered to honor the same rate of scholarship and discount packages that current students receive at Sweet Briar if they transfer to Brenau. That means if a Sweet Briar student is eligible for assistance valued at 40 percent of the annual costs of their education at Sweet Briar, she would be eligible for that same percentage discount once they are admitted to Brenau.
The offer from the Georgia university includes assistance for international students in transferring as well as opportunities for student athletes at Sweet Briar to try out for Brenau Golden Tigers championship-class teams that compete in the women’s division of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics – another initiative that opens scholarship opportunities.
Brenau will host an open house on March 21 designed primarily for current high school students in the area. However, university officials have opened the event to any Sweet Briar students and their families who want to visit Brenau that weekend.
In addition, Brenau created a special web page (https://www.brenau.edu/sweetbriarcolleagues/) to assist current Sweet Briar faculty and staff that will be displaced by the closing to apply for open positions on any Brenau campus, including that of its 137-year-old 850-student Women’s College.
“We are empathetic with Sweet Briar and all members of the Sweet Briar family because our Women’s College faces the same challenges they do in the world of higher education,” said Schrader. “We all believe in the importance of preserving single-gender education opportunities, otherwise we would not struggle so hard to keep it viable.”
A press release announcing Sweet Briar’s closing cited “insurmountable financial difficulties.” Its costs of operations exceeded tuition and other revenues by too great a margin for sustainability. Sweet Briar President James Jones told National Public Radio on March 3 that, even though the college has an endowment valued between $80 and $95 million, it would have to raise an additional $12 million a year from donors each year to survive. That, he said, is extremely improbable with the college donor base’s limited resources.
Brenau currently is engaged in its ForeverGold campaign to raise $40 million. However, that targets expansions, like growing their doctoral programs in health sciences, building the endowment and paying for construction projects, including new sorority houses, residence halls and an athletic complex for the Women’s College. Moreover, thanks to the diversification into the co-educational undergraduate and graduate programs as well as aggressive marketing for the Women’s College, Brenau has more than doubled its revenues in the past decade while applying rigid financial controls to expenses.
Coincidentally, Schrader is scheduled to discuss financial management practices at the American Council on Education national meeting in Washington on March 14 in a forum for new college and university presidents.