As the financial pressure on small colleges continues to increase and the number of colleges closing continues to tick upward, more and more institutions are considering whether it’s time to consider merging with another institution. There are many potential benefits to doing so: Administrative costs can be shared, merged institutions can provide more-diverse curricula and more-robust student services, and merged institutions can achieve greater reach and breadth, which can in turn enhance their branding, enrollment, and financial stability. In short, a merger can help ensure a college’s survival, at least in some form.
But not everyone agrees that mergers are a realistic tactic. In a recent Chronicle essay, Robert Witt and Kevin P. Coyne analyzed mergers occurring since 2016 and found that few, if any, failing private colleges should expect to find a willing partner. The authors suggested that for the vast majority of private nonprofit colleges, the only route to survival would be through institutional actions that improve value and efficiency, noting that a president and board that do not manage their institution in accord with best business-management principles and practices put their institution at serious financial risk.