The number of college mergers have significantly increased over the years as more schools are at the risk of going out of business. This is due to a combination of reasons, including financial struggles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The drop in enrollment rates for 2-year and 4-year colleges partly due to fewer U.S. adults considering a college degree essential for future employment is also part of the issue. More than 50% of U.S. colleges and universities are also concerned about their ability to effectively serve students with their current staffing levels.
College mergers need to be approved by various decision makers before they can be carried out. Although mergers are almost always prompted by financial strain, each type of merger provides their own benefits. For example, cross-country mergers allow universities looking to increase their campus reach to new regions to acquire struggling colleges across the country while international mergers allow universities to work with foreign universities in ways that can better serve international students and promote study abroad opportunities.
In terms of the schools that would most benefit from college mergers, community and public colleges have seen their highest enrollment declines in the last year. Small private, non-profit, and Christian-affliated schools are also the most at risk of closure and would benefit from mergers. Nonetheless, many are concerned that a merger would mean the smaller schools would lose what makes them unique while also taking away the voices of the students and staff leaders.
Institutions across the country are at risk of closing, and the only solution that can save them might just be college mergers.