Virginia Intermont College, with dwindling enrollment, intends to merge with Fla. school

A private liberal arts college in southwestern Virginia with dwindling enrollment announced Friday it intends to merge with a larger university in Florida.

Virginia Intermont College, in Bristol near the Tennessee border, reported to state authorities that it had 378 students in the fall term — an enrollment decline of 35 percent since 2010. It is one of many small private colleges that have struggled with recruiting in recent years amid upheaval in the market nationwide.

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On Friday, the college announced that it plans to unite with Webber International University, based in Babson Park, Fla. A memorandum of understanding calls for the merger to take effect in July.

Webber International is described on a federal Web site as a nonprofit university that offers associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Its fall enrollment was reported as 717 in 2012. According to a Virginia Intermont news release, Webber International recently merged with St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, N.C. The enrollment at that campus in fall 2012, according to a federal Web site, was 489.

Virginia Intermont, founded in 1884, touts its equine programs and liberal arts curriculum. Tuition and fees are listed as $24,542 for this school year, not counting room and board.

St. Paul’s College, a private institution in Lawrenceville, Va., announced its closure last year amid declining enrollment and financial struggles.

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