Footsteps on My Grave

Although the Spawn has already made her college choice, she continues to receive recruiting info. One school that has been a regular contributor to her e-mail feed* (as recently as a few days ago) is Virginia’s Sweet Briar College.

It’s just as well she wasn’t interested; Sweet Briar is closing, effective 25 August. Despite an $84-million endowment, the combination of rural location and single-sex education led to unsustainable enrollment — the school’s current enrollment is under 550 students. (By comparison, Mondoville is about double that.) The college will attempt to help its students transfer to similar institutions; about 300 faculty and staff will lose their jobs.

As a professor at a college with a larger enrollment, but smaller endowment, I shudder when I read these stories, even as we seem to have moved from simply trying to keep the lights on to capital growth. And the next time the Spawn is online, she may not notice it, but she’ll have e-mails from a ghost.

* Yes, I have access to the Spawn’s e-mail account, with her permission. I’ve occasionally come in handy noticing e-mails that escaped her attention. Also, I’m her dad.

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About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
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3 Responses to Footsteps on My Grave

  1. dave.s. says:

    1. Interesting story about a dad in the time of social media: http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/curt-schilling-tracks-down-guys-who-harassed-daughter-on-twitter-201533 Moral: never say anything which you will be ashamed to have your name on. Secondary moral: it’s kind of good to have a retired dad who has time on his hands.

    2. Sweet Briar: yah, cold wind out of the North. I think there’s been a kind of incoherence about American views on sending the sprouts to college. There was Suze Orman prancing around the stage and prating about ‘college debt is GOOD debt’ and you can never make the middle class unless you do it. And then there is some residuum of the idea of community of scholars. The Suze / Reader’s Digest consensus on college being the only path to a good and well remunerated life is collapsing. It remains true that for a number of jobs, you have a better chance to excel if you can put together a 30 page research paper, and that having done a decent degree can signal that you can do that, as well as being able to postpone gratification and maybe know who Daniel Patrick Moynihan was. Bonus points for Theodore Bilbo. We are sending our guys off to college partly for that, and partly because we want them to be confident citizens with a wide reach of understanding.

    I think it’s also true that we have wildly overbuilt college capacity compared to the number of kids who can really use this. Slogging through Chico State with a C+ average and a major in bong studies is not going to make you a member of the community of scholars. Sweet Briar doesn’t seem to have been Chico State, but there will need to be contraction in the academy and being 30 minutes from the nearest Starbucks and being known for their equestrian program probably put the target on their backs a bit early.

  2. Robbo says:

    It’s $94 million.

    Mrs. Robbo is an alum, as are my sister and various family godmothers. Oldest was planning to apply early-decision this fall.

    I don’t believe this case is about sustainability, Instead, the signs are pointing to, at best, incompetence and, at worse, intentional malfeasance by the board. (I understand Forbes is probing into this.)

    And the suddenness with which the news was sprung on everybody was absolutely insane.

    • profmondo says:

      You know, there’s a nice little church-affiliated college down here in Mondoville… just sayin’. More seriously, the fact that the endowment took a hit when the market was going up last year is a red flag. And my sincere condolences to the ladies in your life who lost their alma mater.

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