Saving Sweet Briar Forensic Accountant Releases

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 6, 2015
CONTACT: ERIC COTE
(401) 374-8500
[email protected]
Saving Sweet Briar Forensic Accountant Releases Interim Report
As of August 2014, Sweet Briar College Financial Records Indicate No
Immediate Financial Threat to Warrant Closure
CPA Also Challenges College President's Claim that $250 Million
Endowment is Needed
Richmond, VA - The forensic accountant hired by Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. to review the finances of
Sweet Briar College has completed his initial review and reports that as of August 2014, the college's
financial condition was stable and did not support the decision to close the college.
R. Steven Spitzer, a CPA with Yount, Hyde & Barbour, P.C., who serves as auditor of record for a number
of Virginia colleges, examined the College's annual financial statements from the past five years,
independent ratings of the college's finances and other metrics in reaching his conclusions. Among the
measures used in his analysis were the Composite Financial Index (CFI), developed by a number of
consulting groups, endorsed by the Council of Independent Colleges and widely used in assessing the
health of educational institutions, a financial responsibility composite score from the United States
Department of Education and a study by Forbes magazine. A summary of Spitzer's findings is below.
"Assuming the College's finances are handled in a prudent and responsible way going forward, it would
still remain financially viable," Spitzer's report stated.
"Today's independent report validates what we have said from the beginning," said Sarah Clement
(Sweet Briar College, AB 1975; University of Virginia School of Law, JD 1984). "The numbers used by the
administration to justify their decision to close Sweet Briar College simply do not add up. Today's report
also underscores the urgency of gaining access to additional information from the College so we can
assess the school's true present day financial standing."
Spitzer's report also questions claims by Interim President Jones that the College needs a $250 million
endowment to stay open, an assertion Jones has made publicly in the media. An endowment of that size
would rank third in endowment-funds-per-student in the region - above the University of Virginia. "It is
difficult to imagine why Interim President Jones would claim that an endowment of this magnitude is
necessary to keep Sweet Briar open," said Spitzer.
Another indication of a college's financial standing is its accreditation. The Southern Association of
Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), the regional commission that accredits
Sweet Briar College, has not issued any warnings or made any changes to its most recent accreditation
statements about the College. If the College was in dire financial condition, as Sweet Briar's President
and Board of Directors have claimed, SACSCOC, which is charged with monitoring the institutions it
accredits, would have spoken on the subject.
END
R. Steven Spitzer, CPA, CFE
April 6, 2015
Preliminary Analysis of Financial Condition of Sweet Briar Institute
Sweet Briar College's Financial Condition Did Not Warrant Closure
An initial review of Sweet Briar College's finances shows that the College was not in dire
financial straits just eight months before the College's Board and Interim President announced
they were closing the College for financial reasons. Assuming the College's finances are handled
in a prudent and responsible way going forward, it would still remain financially viable. Three
reliable sources, two of which were released only eight months before the closure announcement,
show that the College is not in bad financial shape:

On July 30, 2014, a study by Forbes magazine was released grading the financial health
of more than 900 private not-for-profit institutions. The Forbes study took into account
nine components, broken into three categories to determine the financial health of private
institutions. Sweet Briar College received a rating of 3.899 out of 4.50 and was given
a grade of "A". The College ranked number 88 out of the over 900 institutions
studied. Only four institutions in Virginia ranked higher: Washington and Lee, the
University of Richmond, Hollins University and Randolph College. The remaining 23
Virginia institutions ranked by Forbes fell below Sweet Briar College.

The Composite Financial Index (CFI), developed by a number of consulting groups and
endorsed by the Council of Independent Colleges to assess the health of educational
institutions, provides a more complex picture of the financial health of an institution. The
CFI score is calculated based on information from each institution's audited financial
statements. Comparison of CFI scores over time provides a long-term view of an
institution's financial performance. The CFI score falls along a scale of -4 to 10. An
institution with a score of greater than 3 is considered well-positioned to strategically
invest institutional resources to optimize achievement. The CFI for Sweet Briar College
was 5.09 and 4.72 for the years ended June 30, 2014, and June 30, 2013, respectively.

The USDOE uses a financial responsibility composite score made up of three ratios
based on official audited financial statements to gauge an institution's financial health.
Composite scores range from negative 1.0 to positive 3.0. A score greater than or equal
to 1.5 indicates a financially responsible institution. The USDOE's composite score for
Sweet Briar College was 3.0 (the highest score possible) as of June 30, 2013, the yearend date of the most recent Department of Education report.
The Facts Do Not Seem to Support Interim President Jones' Claim
that the College Needs a $250 Million Endowment to Stay Open
Interim President Jones has asserted publicly several times that the College needs $250 million in
its endowment to remain open. See, e.g., Sheryl Stolberg, "Anger and Activism Greet Plan to
Shut Sweet Briar College," New York Times (March 22, 2015). It is hard to imagine why such a
claim would be made.
Sweet Briar College has about 700 students. Colleges and universities with $250 million
endowments are typically much larger, and include Duquesne University (about 10,000
students), Seton Hall University (about 10,000 students), and Ithaca College (6,723 students).
See National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), U.S. and
Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2014 Endowment Market Value.
Sweet Briar ranks 17 out of 35 public and private colleges and universities in the region in terms
of overall endowment size. See Virginia College Endowments as ranked by NACUBO, February
2015. As reported by the Washington Post on January 28, 2014, Sweet Briar College ranks a
very respectable 10 out of 30 public and private colleges and universities in Virginia,
Washington, D.C. and Maryland, with respect to the amount of endowment funds per-student.
See Top College Endowments Per Student (2013), Washington Post, January 28, 2014.
If Sweet Briar College had a $250 million endowment, as Interim President Jones suggests is
required, it would rank third in endowment-funds-per-student in the region - above the
University of Virginia. Id. It is difficult to imagine why Interim President Jones would claim that
an endowment of this magnitude is necessary to keep Sweet Briar open.
Conclusion
Our preliminary conclusion upon a review of the publicly-available data is that, as of
approximately eight months before the closure announcement, the College was financially
viable, and there was not an urgent financial reason to close.
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Data Reviewed and Considered
Audited financial reports for years ending June 30, 2009, through June 30, 2014.
IRS Forms 990, "Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax," for years ending
June 30, 2010 through June 30, 2013.
Financial analysis by the U.S. Department of Education.
Financial analysis by Forbes magazine.
Composite Financial Index (CFI) Methodology.
NACUBO, U.S. and Canadian Institutions by FY 2011-2014 Endowment Market Value.
NACUBO, Virginia College Endowments, Rank and Percent Change, February 2015.
Top College Endowments Per Student (2013), Washington Post, January 28, 2014.
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