Sweet Briar College recently announced it received gifts and pledges totaling $18.5 million during fiscal year 2019, including donations from alumnae, supporters, foundations and corporations.

Of the total, $10.2 million was for fiscal year ’19 and $8.3 million will come as future support, according to the college. Since 2015, when a previous administration unsuccessfully tried to close the college, it has raised $63.9 million.

President Meredith Woo said in a news release S&P Global Ratings has upgraded the rating for bonds issued for Sweet Briar for three consecutive years.

“Our success is owed to the support of our alumnae and friends. I’m humbled by their passion and generosity and we at Sweet Briar are singularly committed to being worthy of their support.”

Money raised covered scholarships and travel for prospective students; grants for engaged learning, which enable students to do in-depth research, travel abroad and participate in other hands-on learning experiences; bringing well-known speakers to campus; and helping Sweet Briar develop agricultural enterprises.

The college’s stabilization measures have included a tuition reset in 2018, reduction of operating expenses and implementation of a multi-year financial plan by the college’s board and administration. The school had 336 students enrolled this past year. While final enrollment isn’t yet available for this upcoming year the college expects it to grow, said Janika Carey, a college spokeswoman, in an email.

As Sweet Briar begins a new academic year Aug. 22, Woo said the college is coming off a “spectacular year” that opened with recognition by U.S. News & World Report, which listed the school as among the most innovative in the country.

The college also recently was listed among 400 colleges and universities ranked on Kiplinger’s annual list of best-value colleges. Kiplinger, a Washington, D.C.-based publisher of business forecasts and personal finance advice, has published a Best College Values List for two decades.

Sweet Briar ranked No. 273 among all colleges and universities and No. 115 among liberal arts colleges, according to the Kiplinger list. Tuition and fees for the 2019-20 year are $22,020 and room and board cost $13,250, up from $21,000 and $13,000, respectively, according to Sweet Briar’s website and data published in the Kiplinger list.

This fall, Sweet Briar students can earn a four-year degree in elementary education, thanks to bills passed by the Virginia General Assembly in 2018, the college recently announced. Students still will be able to opt for a comprehensive five-year Master of Arts in Teaching degree, which the college has offered since 2004.

Meredith McCool, director of Sweet Briar College’s education program, said the new major will allow future elementary teachers to engage in coursework across the college while at the same time honing their practice in local schools, according to the college’s website.

Sweet Briar is one of several colleges and universities in the state to start offering undergraduate degrees in education. Gov. Ralph Northam announced in June the state policy boards for elementary, secondary and post-secondary education have approved a total of 53 new teacher preparation programs and 25 new degrees that will allow graduates to become teachers after earning four-year degrees in education.

Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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