In the past few years, there have been about 95 college mergers, which is a 21% increase compared to the previous 18 years combined. Financial strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic closed colleges and created a short-term crisis. However, the near future is seeing as many as 500 4-years colleges and universities at risk of closure as the financial crisis continues.
Since the start of the pandemic, undergraduate enrollment dropped by 9.4% possibly due to a growing shift in sentiment. Fewer U.S. adults consider a college degree as “very important,” causing the value of a college degree to fall. In fact, after working for 10 years, more than 50% of students who graduated from a third of U.S. colleges earn less than high school graduates.
The Great Resignation affected college staffing as universities were forced to furlough employees amid pandemic shutdowns. 56% of U.S. colleges and universities are now concerned about their ability to adequately serve students with current staffing levels. As a result, several colleges decided to merge with other institutions to continue serving students.
Institutions can gain different benefits depending on the merger. For example, local mergers can bring economies of scale and help urban universities expand their campuses and program offerings while international mergers can help universities establish joint-ventures with foreign universities abroad to expand study abroad opportunities.
Public colleges and universities are facing huge declines in enrollment rates, putting them at risk. Smaller, less prestigious private schools and Christian-affiliated schools are also struggling. However, although mergers can save small colleges from permanent closure, there is a growing concern over the loss of identity, voice, and support for these smaller schools.
Colleges must now adapt to the times, which could mean considering a college merger.
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