Financial and demographic woes squeeze many institutions' bottom lines. But while predictions of mergers and consolidations proliferate, so too does evidence that combining colleges -- and even close collaboration -- is hard to pull off even when it seems to make good sense.
A new report from the TIAA-CREF Institute endorses the thesis that many higher education institutions will need to collaborate meaningfully to function well in the future, and that some of the traditional ways of working together -- like the many successful consortia that focus on joint services -- may not work for colleges that aren't close geographically or that seek more dramatic changes in their business models.
...institutions should aim for ...a "sweet spot" ...flexible, sweeping, ...less threatening and risky than mergers...while retaining identities to h reduce costs and [raise] capacity...
its author, Michael K. Thomas of the New England Board of Higher Education, also concedes that mergers are "challenging terrain" on which many would-be marriages can hit potholes -- or sinkholes.
Instead, the report argues that more institutions should aim for what Thomas calls a "sweet spot" that is more flexible and sweeping than most consortia but less threatening and risky than mergers: strategic alliances in which they merge some of their some administrative functions (while retaining their distinct identities and structures) to both reduce costs and give them more capacity than colleges would have on their own.
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