When thinking about colleges in the U.S, there are many words that come to mind before “merger”. Education, community, clubs, dorms, professors, even more abstract terms like liberalism, elitism, or social movement. Today though, in an era where colleges are struggling more and more to find enrollment and funding, a merger is becoming of the most important terms.
A college merger is quite simply when two, or more, colleges combine to preserve and find a way forward for the struggling college. It starts with approval by the college's board of trustees and accrediting bodies, and then moves to the approval of external entities like faculty, alumni, and business partnerships.
If all goes well, the colleges will then merge on one of four scales. A local, national, international, or digital scale. This will bolster the primary colleges size and merit while keeping the identity of the merged college generally preserved. This isn’t to say there aren’t problems though.
For the merging colleges, a few key issues tend to arise. First, a loss of identity and voice, the merged students and faculty commonly fear for the destruction of culture under a larger identity. Second, loss of support, with mergers specific programs may be cut and students of color or other disadvantaged groups may see a loss in some programs. And finally, increased costs and mergers on average lead to a five to seven percent increase in tuition.
While these downsides aren’t devastating, they can deter a college from merging, even to the point of closure. On the positive side, mergers represent a positive alternative to college closure. They keep more faculty, students, and administrators happy, although it’s inevitable that some people will suffer in times of struggle.
So when thinking about colleges in the future, remember the merger. While it’s by no means a fun process to go through, and something colleges should look to avoid. It’s one positive approach to the unfortunate reality of the downward spiral of many colleges in America today.