As the cost of college creeps up and more small colleges close, consolidation has become a lifeline of last resort.
To do it right, college leaders should consider the example of the University System of Georgia.
In a review of the system’s five mergers that occurred from 2013 to 2018, Lauren Russell of Dartmouth College’s Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences found that “Consolidation increases retention rates and the fraction of students graduating on-time with four-year degrees.” A big reason why is that consolidation shifts spending to academic support services like tutoring and advising, which, Russell noted, helps students complete their degree.
“Consolidations were beneficial for students and most likely reflect productivity improvements realized at the affected campuses,” Russell wrote.
Consolidation can’t be used as a cure-all for low-performing college systems, though.
More time must pass before researchers can see how long-lasting the benefits are.