- In the face of tighter education budgets, a number of state higher education officials have already made significant changes in the industry, with states like Vermont merging institutions Lyndon State College and Johnson State College and Georgia rolling out a consolidation scheme that will affect 14 of its public institutions, writes Brian C. Mitchell, a former college & university president, for the Huffington Post.
- Wisconsin is another addition to this trend, writes Mitchell, as policymakers have announced plans for a comprehensive reformation of the state's public institutions, where they would cut $250 million from the university system's budget and merge 13 of the two-year schools into four-year institutions.
- Though faculty efforts to halt the plans may have some impact, they're unlikely to derail the plan without broader support from the courts; moreover, voters must also weigh in on the decision. Mitchell writes that the case of Wisconsin and other state movements means that education stakeholders ought to start asking what the value of two- and four-year institutions is separately, as well as whether mergers actually give value to students.
Public funding for colleges and universities has declined substantially over the last decade, with research showing states are currently spending around $9 billion less on higher education than they were in 2008. Other data from this year shows that about 33 states had garnered revenue below their original projections. With dwindling resources, institutions are going to have to take extra steps to prove their worth to policymakers — particularly with a trend of mergers between two- and four-year institutions.
But while some universities and colleges may be feeling the pressure right now, some reports have found the mergers may actually have some benefits for industry players, especially those already struggling financially. A report from the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA) shows that mergers may be the most financially and sustainably strategic option — so long as partner institutions develop a compelling unifying vision, establish a strong governing body, solidify the right leadership, promote the right sense of urgency, have a strong project management system, create a robust communication plan, and maintain sufficient necessary resources.