Resurrected Sweet Briar College Upgraded Three Levels by S&P

  • Stabilizing enrollment and new management cited as reasons
  • Alumnae saved struggling college from closure last summer

After experiencing a drastic drop in enrollment and complete management turnover, Sweet Briar College received some encouragement on Tuesday when S&P Global Inc. boosted the credit rating of the 115-year-old women’s school three levels.

The rating was raised from CCC to B, five notches below investment grade, with a stable outlook. S&P cited the new management team and an expected strategic plan overhaul as reasons for the upgrade of the institution located in the namesake town about 12 miles (19 kilometers) from Lynchburg, Virginia.

"We raised the rating based in part on our Not-for-Profit Public and Private Colleges University Methodology and our view of the current leadership’s efforts to restore sustainability after previous announcements of closer," Sussan Corson, the primary analyst at S&P for the college, said in a statement.

Sweet Briar, one of the 39 women’s colleges remaining in the U.S., was scheduled to close in August 2015 after struggling to attract students and generate tuition revenue. Alumnae banded together to save the college, but the uncertainty hurt enrollment and student retention.

While Sweet Briar is capable of supporting 700 students, 325 students were expected for the 2016-2017 academic year. Enrollment had dropped to 245 students in 2015-2016, down from 561 students in 2014-2015.

S&P would consider raising the rating during the one-year outlook period should Sweet Briar continue to stabilize enrollment, control endowment spending, and establishes its long-term strategy and management continuity.

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