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Our Take: What does the announced closing of Sweet Briar College say?

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Our Take: What does the announced closing of Sweet Briar College say?

By: Chris Sadler, President, Allegiancy

March 13, 2015

SweetBriarCrestMy brother Steve Sadler recently wrote about trends happening with young people today and how they’re affecting the business world.

He encouraged young adults to: “Think outside the box in a big way when it comes to higher education,” and “Don’t wait for the higher-education system to implode and then one day correct itself.” 

And yet, he probably wouldn’t have predicted the announced closing of Sweet Briar College that soon followed, after 114 years of preparing young women “to be useful members of society.”

I personally am saddened by the college’s announcement.

My oldest son attends Hampden-Sydney, a nearby all-men’s college with the motto, “to form good men and good citizens.”HampdenSydneyLogo

Sweet Briar and Hampden-Sydney students are brother-sister schools.

In many ways, Sweet Briar’s announcement amplifies both of the points that Steve made: single-sex educational institutions are considered way “out-of-the-box” thinking for many with regard to higher education, and many of our colleges and universities are financially imploding.

1) Single-sex education is an innovative approach to education and serves a useful place in society. Although single sex education is not a new concept, it is innovative. This type of school is able to build entire systems around maximizing common characteristics of male and female learning and personality styles.

Sweet Briar has been a stalwart in that tradition. My son’s good friend attends Sweet Briar because she believes it’s the only all-female engineering program in the country. She says that most engineering programs are 80 percent male, and she chose Sweet Briar because she did not want to be pushed to the back of any classroom.

I attended an all-male high school and loved that experience. While it is not for everyone, single-sex education allows young people to celebrate who they are, and eliminates some of the other pressures found on coed campuses.

The president of Hampden-Sydney said it well in an editorial published in the New York Times.

So I am dismayed to see Sweet Briar’s approach to education seemingly coming to an end there.

2) At the same time, I recognize that, like businesses, educational institutions must demonstrate their value to clients – the students and parents.

Colleges and universities have to show that they’re offering real skills and knowledge, not just classes and degrees.   I believe that students and parents should be able to see returns on their time and money invested in higher education. Choosing one’s higher education should be a financially feasible decision in both the short- and long-term.

In my business of managing commercial real estate assets for owners, we have to demonstrate our quantifiable value to clients every day. We have to show clients real gains on their capital. Institutions of higher learning cannot be exempt from that basic requirement.

Chris Sadler’s company, Allegiancy, manages commercial properties that have outperformed their peers by 45 percent since 2006. The company has approximately $300 million in assets under management and delivers clients attractive returns and profitable, hassle-free investments in commercial real estate.  Allegiancy grew by 62 percent last year, largely due to referrals from satisfied clients.

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