Between 2018 and 2022, there have been 95 college mergers, which is more than a 20% increase compared to the previous 18 years. Many factors can be attributed to the rise in college mergers in recent years, including the decline in enrollment rates, the decreasing value of a college degree, and the short-term crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has also caused many college employees to lose their jobs, decreasing staffing levels to the point that some colleges are at risk of noncompliance with federal and state rules.
College mergers can help alleviate the threat of closure. Several groups and stakeholders must approve the merger before it can be carried out, but when agreed upon, schools can create a merger based on their specific needs. For example, a local merger can bring economies of scale and help campuses expand in the local area while cross-country mergers can help colleges be more accessible across the country.
Data shows that smaller schools and less prestigious private schools are most likely in need of a merger in order to survive along with non-profit schools and several community colleges. However, although mergers can help small colleges and universities continue existing, the loss of a small school’s individual identity and voice raise concerns. Many are also worried about an overall increase in average tuition and fees that come with a merger.
Nonetheless, it is possible that the only solution for schools at risk of permanent closure at this point are college mergers.