By Sara Weissman
Michael B. Horn, co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute, a nonprofit think tank, said the Connecticut system is “unique in that it’s the first of the New England states to move forward with such an expansive consolidation” among community colleges.
Nonetheless, Horn, who regularly writes about innovation and disruption in education, sees the merger as part of a trend in higher education. He noted that states like Louisiana and Georgia have merged community colleges in the past. Other community college systems, including in Vermont and New Hampshire, previously considered similar moves as an impending drop in the number of traditional college-age students, a so-called demographic cliff, looms in the region.
Mergers and closures of higher ed institutions tripled starting in the 2010s relative to the prior decade and show no sign of slowing, he said. For example, last year, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education approved plans to merge six universities. Campuses in the University of Maine system pursued a unified accreditation in 2020.
Horn suspects more community college systems will follow Connecticut’s lead.
“I think a lot of places will be looking to see what happens with Connecticut—does it achieve its aims, what are the benefits and what are the downsides,” he said. “I think it will become a case study, given the scope of it.”