Across American higher education, institutional consolidations are on the rise. In particular, multiple state systems have proposed or completed mergers of regional universities and/or community colleges with the stated goal of increasing efficiency. The conditions prompting these consolidations have been mounting for years—among them a long-term downward trend in state support for higher education and demographic shifts away from traditional-aged college students, especially in rural areas where numerous public institutions are located.

Yet despite the high-profile nature of some recent successful and failed consolidations, there is remarkably little in-depth analysis of their conditions, dynamics, and consequences—especially their impact on equitable access to and success in higher education.

To begin to fill this gap, Ithaka S+R has conducted in-depth investigations of three recent examples of state-system-led institutional consolidation efforts: in Georgia, Wisconsin, and Texas. In separately presented case studies, we discuss the origins, motivations, initiation, implementation, and outcomes of these completed consolidation efforts. In each case, in addition to evaluating whether the stated goals were accomplished, we focus particular attention on the implications of the consolidation process and outcomes for racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic equity.

We identified more than 20 recent examples of state-system consolidations in our research. Do these insights hold for those we didn’t investigate? What other lessons do those who participated in or were affected by consolidations have to share? We invite you to leave a comment below or contact us.

Read the case studies

A Georgia Case Study: A Look at the University System Consolidations with an Eye Towards Race, Ethnicity, and Equity

A Texas Merger: The Creation of University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Consolidating the University of Wisconsin Colleges: The Reorganization of the University of Wisconsin System

Read the summary report

Public College and University Consolidations and the Implications for Equity: Lessons from Georgia, Texas, and Wisconsin