The modern landscape for colleges and universities alike is rapidly changing. Enrollment rates are falling year after year, COVID saw some of the hardest times colleges have seen in years, and staffing has become an issue that some colleges continue to struggle with day after day.
Some colleges, in response, have opted to merge with other colleges to preserve a path into the future. For a large percentage of these colleges, these will be local mergers, state-wide mergers in particular being very popular. Although mergers across state and national borders are by no means unheard of. Digital colleges have even started to combine to garner a bigger student base.
These mergers all serve to take a smaller institution and to incorporate them into a larger one. This will happen after each college’s board and accrediting bodies approve the merger, hopefully with the backing of the faculty, alumni, and business partners. Once done, the merger will come with a slew of benefits and downsides.
The benefits come in the security that a merger allows. A college facing closure can offer few guarantees to its students, and even fewer to its faculty. A college entering a merger can offer security and stability to its existing students and hopefully faculty. Unfortunately, that’s the extent of what can be typically guaranteed.
The downside tends to come in what will be lost. The culture, voice, specific programs, and identity of a campus are all subject to change as a merger is enacted. The reality is the college a student entered may not be the one they leave. Yet still, many find solace in the guarantees of a merged college, even at the loss of everything else.
This is the college merging process, one that is typically born of economic uncertainty, but one that may serve as a force of hope for those same struggling colleges.