Consolidating system

Low-performing students, Russell’s research found, didn’t seem harmed or helped by Georgia’s changes.How, exactly, a university system consolidates matters.The reduction in dropout rates in the Georgia system, for example, could just keep students in school another year before they drop out.And it’s not yet clear that graduation rates overall, rather than on-time graduation, will improve after consolidation.Even for state college systems in relatively good financial shape, consolidation could make them fiscally leaner, help students learn more, and improve graduation rates.To do it right, college leaders should consider the example of the University System of Georgia.Restructuring a college can eliminate duplication and micromanagement, and identify problems with keeping workers accountable.Doing it well means using a school’s resources better and doing more with less.

Notably, the Georgia system accomplished all of this without consolidation driving up costs.Positive results aren’t guaranteed, and involuntary mergers without the support of administrators, faculty, and politicians can leave students worse off—while paying more for less.The University System of Georgia, it should be remembered, is the fifth-largest state university system by enrollment.That way, the threat (usually financial) disappears and students are assured the larger institution is stable.But these mergers and eleventh-hour survival moves have another benefit: consolidating campuses and university services can save a college money and improve student outcomes.

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