Why Sweet Briar all-women's college will stay open

A mediated settlement Saturday was announced that will keep open Sweet Briar College, using $12 million raised by alumni. 

(Autumn Parry/News & Daily Advance via AP)
Paulette Vaughan Porter-Stransky, right, helps ring the bell at Sweet Briar College in Amherst, Va. on Tuesday, June 9, 2015. The Virginia attorney general announced a settlement agreement June 20 to keep the all-women's college open.

Virginia's attorney general announced a mediated settlement Saturday to keep open Sweet Briar College, using $12 million raised by determined alumnae to keep college afloat in the upcoming academic year and sweeping out leadership of the 114-year-old school.

Attorney General Mark Herring said the resolution came after hundreds of hours of negotiations involving the college, the local county attorney fighting its closure and a nonprofit intent on saving the school.

Herring said the agreement would be presented to a judge on Monday for his approval and final settlement. It would also end litigation aimed at blocking the college's closure.

Other key elements of the agreement include the easing of restrictions on $16 million from the college's endowment and the appointment of a new president once the governing board is reformed.

In early May, leaders of the women's liberal arts college cited insurmountable financial challenges as the reason for the college's closure. It was scheduled to shutter in late August.

That claim has been challenged by alumnae, students and faculty. They questioned whether the college's finances were as dire as they had been portrayed. Sweet Briar alumnae set up a "Saving Sweet Briar" website to collect donations and keep the school open. As of today, the site has $21 million in pledges and includes a headline: "Sweet Briar Saved."

Herring, a likely Democratic candidate for governor, had been the target of criticism from some alumnae who believed he should have led the legal challenge to keep the college from closing. His office brought together all the principals in hopes of reaching such a resolution.

"The agreed settlement certainly is better for all parties than continued litigation, and more importantly,Sweet Briar College will stay open," he said in a statement.

While many students have made plans to attend other schools, many said they would return to Sweet Briar if they could. Some schools to which they transferred said they would allow students to return to Sweet Briar if it was resurrected.

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