When Merger or Consolidation Plans Don’t Align
Jul 2023

When Merger or Consolidation Plans Don’t Align

By Jessica Blake

A debate in Wisconsin over the possibility of merging a two-year state institution with a two-year technical college highlights questions of realignment faced by public college systems across the country.

Michael B. Horn, co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a nonpartisan think tank, said failed mergers or consolidations are not uncommon in higher ed but that he sees local communities advocating for colleges to operate independently more often than he does for them to consolidate.

He added that he was less surprised by UW-Milwaukee’s lack of excitement about the idea of a merger.

“Institutional autonomy is something that they often desire and fight for, for better or worse,” he said.

Other states including Vermont, Connecticut and Georgia have also debated, and, in some cases, put into effect, consolidation plans. “I think it’s safe to say it starts a process then to figure out, ‘What is our actual resolution going to be here?’ Because this isn’t sustainable,” Horn said. “There’s ample evidence from other states that have gone through consolidations that the processes are not linear, or quick.”


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