Colleges and universities rest at the heart of economic and social mobility in the United States. Few assets provide the average citizen with as much career potential as a college degree does, but year after year this becomes less and less true. In 2013, 70% of the U.S adult population thought college degrees were very important. A number that has dropped by 19% to just 51% percent of the population, a slim majority.

These statistics are all emblematic of a much larger issue in the American education system, falling enrollment rates. Following the pandemic, undergraduate enrollment fell by over nine percent, for two year institutions that means a 16% decline, and for four year colleges that means a six percent decline. 

For many colleges, especially those with particularly dramatic drops in enrollment, this has meant drastic changes are needed. In the most dramatic cases, complete closure of the college is a more than realistic option. Although there is one alternative that many colleges have looked at, mergers.

A college merger sees one or even many colleges combining to preserve a path forward. This may mean one small college was combined with another, creating more campus space, but it may also mean several colleges are combined into a new, massive university. A merger will preserve a school, but at some cost.

Typically a merged school will feel a distinct drop in campus culture and increase in costs. Programs may be destroyed, the feeling of a smaller school may be completely lost, and an average tuition increase of five to seven percent should be expected. These are the downstream effects of a simple loss in college enrollment. 

A college is built upon its students, and while COVID and cultural changes alike have moved many away from a college education, not many institutions were equipped to handle that. There are few things as important as enrollment to a college, and nothing displays that better than the fate of those that see their enrollment fall too low.

The College Merger Explosion: Why Colleges are Failing