From 2018 to 2022, there were nearly 100 college mergers, a 21% increase in comparison to the previous 18 years. It is numbers like this that are leading many to wonder: Why are colleges failing?
Financial strain in the wake of the pandemic is the main culprit. The US government invested almost $80 billion to help colleges survive, however, as many as 500 institutions are still at risk. Undergrad enrollment has dropped, and many prospective students are delaying their education for financial reasons. There has also been a shift in interest in a higher education, as the value of the college degree is falling. From 2020-2022, more than 10% of Americans shifted to a highly skilled job without a degree. These phenomena in combination with the employment crisis have made the perfect storm for college closures and mergers.
There are several types of college mergers, including local, cross-country, online, or even international. According to experts, schools most at risk are same-state schools with less than 5,000 students. However, no one is safe, as public colleges and universities continue to face the highest enrollment declines. Loss of identity, loss of support, and increased costs are only a few of the several long-term effects that mergers can have and that many are afraid of. These fears are real and warranted, leaving many students and communities wondering if their school is next.