Richmond, VA – Saving Sweet Briar, Inc., the non-profit group formed to fight the closure of Sweet Briar College, announced today that it has retained Steven Spitzer, a Certified Fraud Examiner, to conduct a forensic analysis of Sweet Briar College’s finances.
Steven Spitzer, CPA, CFE leads the Litigation Support, Evaluation and Forensic Accounting Team of Yount, Hyde & Barbour, a Virginia-based accounting firm that provides accounting, tax, assurance and advisory services.
Spitzer has advised a number of colleges on financial matters and has a deep understanding of the underpinnings of a college’s financial strengths and weaknesses. His past collegiate clients have included Shenandoah University, Christendom College, Patrick Henry College and Virginia Intermont College.
“My preliminary analysis of financial statements over the past several years indicates that there is no immediate financial crisis that warrants the decision to close the school,” said Spitzer. “As we review additional financial data, I will be able to provide an assessment of the school’s true present day financial condition.”
Troutman Sanders, the Richmond law firm leading Saving Sweet Briar’s legal challenge to the college’s closure, will submit a formal request for a number of financial records Spitzer will need to conduct his forensic analysis.
“We have recognized from day one that Sweet Briar College faces challenges but we believe these can be overcome through a series of steps including enhanced marketing, more aggressive recruitment, cost cutting and increased alumnae giving,” said Sarah Clement, (Sweet Briar College, AB 1975; University of Virginia School of Law, JD 1984), Chair of the Saving Sweet Briar Board of Directors. “What is most important as we prepare to help chart a new future for Sweet Briar College is having an accurate and current picture of the school’s true financial condition. Thankfully, with Mr. Spitzer’s help, will be able to determine what is needed to close the immediate financial shortfall. We can then work to close that gap and begin the process of developing a longer term strategy with input from key stakeholders that will allow us to ensure that future generations of women can proudly call themselves Sweet Briar alumnae.”
Clement criticized college officials for misleading alumnae, faculty and students about the financial challenges facing the school. “The interim president of the college told alumnae that a $250 million endowment would be needed almost immediately to help save the school,” said Clement. “That’s simply a ridiculous figure not supported by the facts.”
A group of volunteers supporting Saving Sweet Briar conducted their own initial assessment of the college’s financial position and recently challenged the claims by college officials who said current financial conditions justified the decision to close the college at the end of the current semester.
According to Spitzer’s own preliminary review of the college’s annual financial statements from 2010 to 2014, yearly operating deficits were erased by investment gains from the endowment, grants, gifts and alumni giving.
Spitzer also said the college’s net assets appear to have increased over the last five years from $126 million to $134 million, while debt obligations dropped from $42 million to $25 million and endowment values rose from $85 million to $95 million.