From 2018 to 2022, there were almost 100 documented college mergers, which is a 21% increase in comparison to the previous 18 years. These numbers beg the question, why are colleges failing? Many reports show that financial strain plays a large role. Because of the pandemic, many colleges were forced to shut down and enrollment has already begun to shrink. Both 2-year and 4-year colleges have seen a drop in undergrad enrollment, and studies show that fewer US adults even consider a college degree to be “very important” anymore.
In addition, the value of the college degree is falling as well, as even after working for 10 years, studies show that ⅙ of college graduates earn less than high school graduates. Also, another result of the pandemic was hiring issues, as many employees, professors specifically, were laid off or took early retirement offers as staffing levels became unsteady.
College mergers have become a choice for many institutions facing these problems. Once these proposed merges are approved by boards and stakeholders, the merge can begin. The main types of mergers are local, cross country, online, international, or a consolidation merger, all with different benefits and processes to be successful.
The future of college mergers is inevitable, and same-state schools with less than 5,000 students are the most at risk. Loss of identity, voice, support, and increased costs are only some of the long term effects that these mergers may have on the students and staff at merged institutions. As the pandemic and financial crises rage on, all of these what-ifs leave many students and communities wondering if their college is next.