AMHERST CO. (WSLS 10) - It's the first week of a Spring semester many thought Sweet Briar College would never get.
President Phillip Stone says it's been an uphill battle.
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"By the time I got here, I knew it was going to be hard. I did not expect it to be as hard as it was," Stone said.
Newly appointed President Stone then had only thirty days to prepare the campus for a school year not previously planned.
He rehired enough staff and recruited 240 students, forty more than their target.
"We went from 0 to 240 in just six weeks. So even though we had a tiny enrollment we were pretty proud," Stone said.
This semester is looking even stronger.
Although spring is normally a semester with lower enrollment for most colleges, Sweet Briar's has actually grown. They've picked up thirty one students. Most impressive however is the outlook for next year.
Stone says for the first time in 50 years, they have received more than 1000 applications. They currently sit at 1040 applications for enrollment.
"We expect to set a record this year," Stone said.
He says considering it was almost a year ago the announcement was made to close the school, a record setting volume of applications is quite the accomplishment.
"We would rather be up than down and to have historic highs is very encouraging." What's turned it around?
He says it's that story of how Sweet Briar was saved. The redemption story of how alumnae, students, faculty and staff rallied to keep the college open is attractive to future students. If fact, he says it is their best recruiting tool for the college.
"There's a buzz all over the country," Stone said. He would know, he has been traveling all over the country to recruit donations from alumnae bases to add to their operation budget.
And despite the attorney general releasing 16 million dollars of their endowment to spend, Stone says they haven't touched it, and are fundraising instead. At the moment they have more money in the bank than what it will cost to operate next year.
He calls next year a slam dunk.
"When I say a slam dunk, I mean that next year is not an issue. We are already talking about years five to ten. Next year is done."
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