Mergers (or not) in Higher Education:

A recent court decision was handed down denying the merger of the University of Baltimore and (into) Morgan State. http://bit.ly/1TEwpZx. For the record, Morgan State is an HBCU. The idea was to right state wrongs in higher education, including overlapping curricula, which were damaging to the HBCUs. The judge termed this remedy “extreme.”

See also: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bs-md-hbcu-case-20160202-story.html

Now, I have two questions/observations. The HBCU president was disappointed by the decision while UB president was pleased. What if the situation had been reversed and the surviving institution was the “whiter” institution instead of the HBCU? Might the reaction generally and specifically have been different? Just asking. Ponder that thought.

Mergers in higher ed make buckets of sense in times of high costs, redundancies, student needs, finances and leveraging opportunities. Yes, mergers are sticky and hard. Issues abound. Higher ed institutions have trouble even sharing faculty and purchasing and insurance and back office enterprises. There is, to be sure, a give-up of identity and autonomy but there are mergers that work for the betterment of all — in education and in the business world. Of course, some fail too. See: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/08/05/college-merger-negotiations-are-long-and-complicated

If mergers sound bad, what about intensive collaborations and ways to share space and faculty and avoid redundant programs? See: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/mergers-education-sector-some-surprises-next-steps-karen-gross.

Michael Thomas of NEBHE has proposed something between a merger and a collaboration — a strategic alliance. https://www.tiaa-crefinstitute.org/public/pdf/between_collaboration_and_merger.pdf

Here’s my point: we have trouble collaborating — and not just in education. Look at government as an example. It seems the aisles cannot meet in Congress, and we are constantly bickering. Or shouting. Until folks see the values of working together, mergers will not happen even if they are the right thing for students, faculty and staff. Autonomy has value but no person can be an island in today’s educational landscape.

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Author, Educator & Commentator; Former President, Southern Vermont College; Former Senior Policy Advisor, US Dept. of Education; Former Law Professor

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