Richard Vedder of See Thru Edu seems to think so and he makes a good case.

Coming Demise of Small Liberal Arts Colleges?

The news that Sweetbriar College will be open in the fall no doubt pleased many alums of that institution, but while the school has been temporarily rescued from imminent death, it is still very much on life support. What are the prospects that Sweetbriar will be alive and well a decade from now? Certainly far better than zero, but also not anywhere near 100 percent.

The Sweetbriar experience is one we will see a lot in coming years, I suspect. Before looking at the broader phenomenon, let’s look specifically at Sweetbriar. What can it do to improve its prospects? Some things are decidedly low-tech. Sweetbriar could, for example, accept male students. The current single-sex model seems not to be working well, so making the school co-ed is certainly one option. Some of the alums working to save the school are probably dead set against this, and there are some advantages to single-sex education, but many other former single-sex schools (Harvard and Vassar come to mind) have flourished in a co-ed environment.

A second low tech thing Sweetbriar can do is hire good new leadership. Its last non-interim president was apparently much disliked, showing contempt for some of Sweetbriar’s enduring traditions. The interim president, James Jones, is now out. Likewise, the governing board is changing radically.

Sweetbriar is one of a number of relatively small Southern colleges historically catering mainly to students from relatively affluent backgrounds – Washington and Lee, Davidson, Sewanee (University of the South), and Hollins are four other examples that come to mind; even the University of Virginia fits this mold. Some of the other schools in this genre seem to be flourishing, and I suspect Sweetbriar could learn from them.