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Mergers in Higher Education

Can lessons from health care be useful to universities?
By Barry Eisenberg

Recently, Clarkson University and Union Graduate College in New York State merged. According to a Clarkson news release, Anthony Collins, Clarkson’s president, said that the merger would “bring together two strong, stable and financially viable institutions, and . . . leverage their complementary curricula and significant resources.”

Many higher education institutions have joint programs, but such collaborations typically don’t affect each institution’s independence or identity. However, technological developments related to educational delivery, coupled with an anticipated flattening of revenue from tuition, could compel colleges and universities to pursue transformational arrangements like mergers.

Might the Clarkson-Union affiliation signal a potentially broad and rapidly occurring trend in higher education? Absolutely! And the strongest clues come from another field—health care.

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Barry Eisenberg is associate professor in the State University of New York Empire State College’s School for Graduate Studies and a consultant to health-care organizations on strategic planning and governance. He was a hospital executive for twenty years and is coauthor of Mastering Leadership: A Vital Resource for Healthcare Organizations. His e-mail address is barry


It seems to me that the merging of hospitals has not been much of a success in controlling costs because they continue to soar. As for patients, one sees numbers around 100,000 people dying in hospitals because of mistakes.
Another model was the consolidating of public schools that was promoted as providing more opportunties for kids which i think happened in the 1950s and 1960s. Teaching is better after these changes, but we have these massive high schools with 4-5,000 students in a building that are very hard to control.

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