Sweet Briar College announced yesterday that it is ceasing operation after almost 100 years as a private liberal arts college for women. Here is the announcement on the college’s website. And here is a news story about it, pointing out that even a $94 million endowment didn’t save the school from extinction. Excerpt:

Sweet Briar administrators cited several trends that informed the decision to close, including the declining number of female students interested in all-women colleges and the dwindling number of students overall interested in small, rural liberal arts colleges.

The school’s board decided to close Sweet Briar now, rather than when it ran out of money entirely, so it could use the endowment to help faculty, staff, and students to transition out. That strikes me as a wise and compassionate policy, but still, one hates to see a small liberal arts college expire.

I was talking not long ago to a high school guidance counselor friend, who told me that the students at her school are favoring big public universities, chiefly because they are terrified of graduating owing a lot of money. She said that even though she personally would love for more of these kids to go to small liberal arts colleges, she understands their reasoning. It is not smart, she said, to go into debt for an undergraduate degree.

I very much doubt Sweet Briar will be the last college to surrender like this.