In Otterbein, which enrolled about 2,600 college students final fall, Antioch discovered a companion that might function a feeder for its low-residency and on-line graduate packages, provided at a small constellation of 4 campuses situated on the nation’s coasts. In Antioch, which enrolled about 3,400 college students final 12 months, Otterbein discovered an establishment that gives extra alternatives for its (largely) undergraduate college students to pursue graduate levels.
“All the oldsters that join with our universities and join with increased schooling shall be enthusiastic about what we’re placing collectively and beginning and launching right this moment,” John L. Comerford, president of Otterbein, stated throughout a information convention on his campus.
Information of mergers and acquisitions in increased schooling are hardly new and are prone to enhance in quantity in coming years as many faculties grapple with falling enrollment, elevated working prices, and pressures to restrict tuition will increase.
However the mergers and acquisitions of the previous decade, sometimes certainly one of two varieties, have had their downsides. In a single state of affairs, a public governing board combines two or extra faculties to create efficiencies of scale, however this results in cuts in packages and layoffs of college. In one other state of affairs, a small, failing non-public faculty is absorbed by a bigger establishment, however this largely eliminates the id and autonomy of the acquired faculty.
The association between Antioch and Otterbein took greater than two years to develop and is supposed to outline a distinct sort of relationship between two faculties, a win-win that creates a largely equal partnership slightly than a takeover. The regulatory approvals are anticipated to take a 12 months, in line with a information launch, and new packages might be obtainable as quickly as the autumn 2023 semester.
The establishments have agreed, in precept, to what they’re calling a nationwide “system,” permitting every faculty to retain its title and diploma packages, whereas additionally collaborating on some graduate and continuing-education packages. Additionally they plan to create a 3rd entity to share the prices of some administrative capabilities; one change that’s prone to lead to some workers discount. The outcome, faculty leaders stated, is a partnership that’s meant to supply college students extra choices slightly than fewer.
“We strategy this with the notion that one plus one plus one has so as to add as much as greater than three,” stated William R. Groves, chancellor of Antioch, which has its headquarters, however no campus, in Ohio.
Larger-education specialists stated the brand new association is promising and will set the stage for different establishments to pursue an analogous relationship.
The variations are complementary, stated David Weerts, a professor of organizational management, coverage, and growth on the College of Minnesota. The enterprise additionally is smart, he stated, as a result of each faculties share an analogous progressive mission, primarily based on social justice and fairness, and aren’t simply becoming a member of forces primarily based on geography.
For too lengthy, faculties have resisted this strategy, considering that their particular id could be misplaced by way of any sort of partnership, stated Rick Staisloff, a higher-education advisor with the rpk Group.
However the monetary pressures on increased schooling, pushed largely by falling enrollments, makes this sort of deal extra seemingly, he stated, in addition to extra palatable to schools: “We are going to see way more exercise like this than we’ll mergers and acquisitions.”
Groves stated an affiliation has been a part of his plan for Antioch since he took over as chancellor in 2016. The college, with its varied department campuses, was the surviving half of a earlier partnership with Antioch School, a residential liberal-arts faculty in Ohio that closed in 2008 and reopened three years later as a separate establishment.
Whereas the college stays, it has little endowment to maintain it, Groves stated, and desires a gradual stream of undergraduates to assist maintain it financially.
In December 2020, a working group on the college, together with some 20 school members, recognized a gaggle of almost 250 faculties who is perhaps potential companions, stated Groves. By late January 2021, that record was whittled to 60, who have been contacted to see in the event that they have been , he stated. Inside three months, 13 of these faculties had responded with letters of curiosity.
The college additionally engaged the Affiliation of Governing Boards and the Royal Financial institution of Canada to verify the potential companions have been a superb match financially and had an analogous mission.
They weren’t about to take simply anybody, Groves stated. Like Antioch, the companion faculty needed to be dedicated to social, financial, and environmental justice, they usually didn’t need an establishment that was in dire monetary straits. As well as, he stated, the working group set some boundaries over what they needed to protect within the relationship, together with the title of the college and their very own governing board.
“We needed a justice league, not only a enterprise proposition,” Groves stated.
Antioch settled on 4 finalists and met with representatives of every establishment in June of 2021, Groves stated, after which it continued discussions with two faculties, together with Otterbein.
One establishment was dominated out due to monetary considerations, Groves stated in an electronic mail, despite the fact that its mission aligned with Antioch and it had fascinating potentialities for collaborative packages.
“Our concern,” he stated, “was the quantity of debt they carried and their declining enrollment numbers.”
Kenneth Baker, chair of Antioch’s M.B.A. program and co-chair of the college senate, stated his colleagues had numerous considerations concerning the end result till they realized the companion establishment was Otterbein. Selecting a university that has an analogous mission eased worries that they must change their enterprise curriculum from one that’s centered on social welfare and the atmosphere in addition to earnings.
For some Otterbein school, the introduced system is a step towards bettering Otterbein’s revenues after some lean years. “I feel the president has been clear which you could’t reduce your solution to success, so rising packages and innovating has been the theme,” stated Meredith C. Frey, a professor of psychology at Otterbein.
Frey stated she is happy that her undergraduates could have a brand new pathway to a graduate diploma in that area. “We don’t have the flexibility to develop our personal graduate packages,” she stated.
Employment circumstances for school members will stay unchanged at every faculty, with tenure at Otterbein and multiyear contracts at Antioch, in line with faculty officers.
Conversations about these sorts of partnerships have gotten normalized amongst presidents and boards. They’re not ready for a disaster to pursue this.
A whole lot of work stays earlier than any new packages will be introduced. The accreditor that oversees each establishments has to approve the plans, as does the U.S. Division of Schooling. A system board should be established and set clear tips about how every companion will contribute and, ideally, profit financially from the association.
There are dangers, too, stated Comerford, president of Otterbein, together with if the enterprise doesn’t work as effectively financially as they hoped. Each faculties are additionally involved about this association being perceived as a takeover by the opposite, he stated.
Larger-education advocates see the system announcement as an indication that partnerships are now not seen as an indication of desperation, a measure to be pursued as a last-ditch effort to save lots of the school.
Certainly, different establishments are already expressing curiosity in the opportunity of becoming a member of. Because the announcement, Groves stated, greater than a dozen faculties have reached out to discover membership.
Staisloff, the advisor, stated what makes this association fascinating and fairly totally different from different consortiums is that it might presumably increase to different establishments throughout the nation.
Marjorie Hass, president of the Council of Unbiased Faculties, stated her membership has been very within the partnership between Antioch and Otterbein.
“Conversations about these sorts of partnerships have gotten normalized amongst presidents and boards. They’re not ready for a disaster to pursue this.”