S&P Global has raised Sweet Briar’s long-term rating to BB from BB-, a recognition of the Amherst college’s improved financial health.
One important factor in the rating is Sweet Briar’s enrollment, which has been steadily increasing over the last three years and has resulted in positive net tuition for the college.
“The strong financial profile reflects adequate financial performance for the rating category, healthy available resources, modest debt with rapid amortization and no additional debt needs,” S&P said in a news release.
S&P noted Sweet Briar’s operating surpluses in 2019 and 2020, with the expectation of further improvement this year and in 2022, and also recognized the college’s healthy endowment and recent capital improvements.
Another factor in the rating is an expected clean bill of health from the college’s accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The final report from SACSCOC is expected in December.
“Our financial health is at the heart of our ability to serve our students,” said President Meredith Woo in the release. “Our success in recruiting students has been a critical component of that, as has our sound financial management. Our hard work is paying off, and I’m glad to see that it’s being acknowledged by S&P Global.”
Sweet Briar survived a closure attempt six years ago by a previous administration through a massive fundraising from graduates and supporters.
The S&P release also addressed Sweet Briar’s successful navigation of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting the college re-configured classrooms and learning areas to enable social-distancing, required vaccination and testing of symptomatic students and strongly suggested mask wearing indoors and in other confined spaces.
“The high level of commitment to health, safety, academic excellence and financial responsibility demonstrated by the entire Sweet Briar community has been the cornerstone of the College’s upward trajectory,” the release said. “The Sweet Briar community is grateful to S&P for the validation of the College’s progress and prospect.”