Small Universities Are Saving Funds And Pooling Resources by Merging

Schools that have merged enjoy perks such as new joint degree programs, more options for specialized majors, higher state rankings and reduced costs

Photo: Stacie Wells

Like corporations that consolidate to save money, an increasing number of small colleges and universities around the U.S. are merging, Time reports. Reduced state funding is partly to blame, Time writes, as is an ongoing drop in student enrollment rates. Merging allows smaller institutions to provide more services without taking on any additional costs. Here are some recent examples:

In addition to Augusta State and Georgia Health Sciences University, Georgia has fused six other institutions into three, reducing the total number in its public system to 31, and reorganized 15 of the state’s technical colleges, saving an estimated $6.7 million a year on overhead. The heavily indebted public University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey will be absorbed this year into Rowan and Rutgers. The 10-school Louisiana State University System is merging its chancellorship with the presidency of Louisiana State University A&M, and plans to bring all its separately run campuses together by 2015. And in Baton Rouge, four technical colleges are being merged with Baton Rouge Community College.

While one university source told Time that mergers are “logical” and help the schools “operate more efficiently,” not everyone is on board when institutions begin exploring the option for such an undertaking. Alumni, for example, are often fiercely loyal to their alma matter, and faculty and students can be opposed to change—especially for those with the possibility of losing or shifting jobs.

Legislators who like having higher-education institutions in their districts often resist consolidations.

And several proposals to merge historically black public colleges and universities with predominantly white ones—Southern University at New Orleans and the neighboring University of New Orleans, for instance, which was approved by the Louisiana Board of Regents but died in the state legislature—have been complicated by issues of race.  

Those schools that have cleared the obstacles and succeeded in merging enjoy perks such as new joint degree programs, more options for specialized majors and higher state rankings. And all of them, Time points out, succeeded in lowering their costs.

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