Otterbein and Antioch Universities are combining forces—however not merging—to create an affiliation that goals to construct a nationwide college system centered on graduate education and grownup learners.
Mergers and acquisitions throughout greater education have made nationwide headlines lately as faculties make such strikes to stay afloat. However the affiliation, announced Thursday, between Otterbein and Antioch provides a distinct method, yet another akin to a enterprise alliance.
The 2 universities hope to formally launch shared applications by fall 2023. However they don’t plan to cease there, as leaders for the 2 establishments inform Inside Increased Ed that they intend to convey extra faculties beneath the affiliation umbrella to make the yet-to-be-named system really nationwide.
Particulars rising on the trouble at Otterbein and Antioch—which is impartial of the better-known Antioch Faculty—are primarily a tough sketch. Officers observe they are going to want approval from their present accreditors, which they anticipate will take a couple of 12 months. As they wait, leaders intend to sharpen their marketing strategy and develop early applications. Although they’ve recognized areas for collaboration, particular applications haven’t been introduced.
The main focus will probably be on graduate education, diploma completion and workforce growth.
Although concepts for the partnership are nonetheless taking form, leaders envision a system the place every school maintains its personal distinctive id, governing board and accreditation whereas being a part of a nationwide system that may supply collaborative applications, shared companies and different benefits. Otterbein and different faculties becoming a member of the system which have undergraduates will maintain their athletics applications separate.
Antioch president William Groves famous that a variety of faculties have approached the college—which has a number of campuses throughout the U.S. and on-line choices—lately about an affiliation. And whereas none of these partnerships have been workable, it bought the ball rolling on the thought, so Antioch introduced in a advisor and developed an inventory of potential companions.
Out of round 60 establishments that have been thought of, Groves stated, Otterbein rose to the highest.
“Our aim was to know the change within the greater education panorama and the consolidation within the market. We needed to be at first of this cycle, not on the finish of it,” he stated. “We needed to decide on a accomplice that was proper for Antioch, one which was centered on an identical mission and value-based education that Antioch is targeted on and has been since its inception. Mission was important, monetary viability was important and complementary applications have been important.”
With the primary campuses for each faculties situated in Ohio, the partnership is sensible geographically. However extra importantly, Groves stated, it is sensible from a mission standpoint.
John Comerford, president of Otterbein, famous that calls to develop partnerships started coming throughout the pandemic. Market challenges, equivalent to a shrinking pool of conventional undergraduate college students, additionally factored into Otterbein’s determination to accomplice with Antioch to increase its choices.
“Once we’re primarily reliant on 18- to 22-year-old conventional undergraduates, we perceive the challenges of that market. How do you suppose in new methods about capability to serve new college students?” Comerford stated.
Becoming a member of forces with Antioch provides a right away enlargement to a brand new market of scholars. Whereas Otterbein already provides restricted graduate choices, it will enable the college to develop extra.
“It’s a strategy to keep, no less than from Otterbein’s seat, the distinctiveness of our conventional undergraduate program, which isn’t effectively arrange structurally for achievement within the grownup area,” Comerford stated. “However Antioch is, so we are able to have the very best of each worlds in a mannequin like this.”
And whereas Otterbein and Antioch are looking for extra companions to affix the nationwide system they envision, Comerford stated they’ll be choosy. They’re looking for a mission match in addition to monetary viability, and potential companions shouldn’t view membership as a Hail Mary for failing faculties.
“I might simply say that you need to do that from a place of power,” Comerford stated. “This isn’t the way in which to avoid wasting a college that’s on loss of life’s door. That’s not what that is about.”
The still-developing plan bears some similarities to different formal greater education partnerships involving non-public nonprofit faculties. (Public faculties and universities, after all, are extra naturally present in methods and different groupings.) For instance, the three-member National University System brings collectively Nationwide College, Metropolis College of Seattle and Northcentral College beneath one umbrella. Equally, the TCS Education System, which has 5 school companions, is one other comparative mannequin.
Increased Ed Affiliations
David King, a administration professor at Florida State College who research mergers and acquisitions, stated affiliations throughout greater education have been trending up lately. Although such affiliations aren’t unusual, he notes they’re seen extra within the enterprise world.
Affiliations supply sure benefits, equivalent to collectively managing and advertising applications.
“That may then scale back prices. It’s a approach of primarily growing the revenues that each would see, and hopefully, they’ll be capable to appeal to extra folks to it,” King stated. “Then it lowers their prices, as a result of they’ve much less amenities, instructors, employees and different issues.”
Some tutorial applications are ripe for affiliation, equivalent to these which can be costly to supply. King factors to FSU’s joint engineering program with Florida A&M College as one such instance.
However King notes that there might be challenges along with advantages.
“The issue is that you just now not have as a lot management over your model. You’re providing programs which can be going to be taught by somebody you didn’t rent, and the standard of what primarily is delivered is barely partially beneath your management—and that’s usually the place alliances fail,” King stated.
Some consultants observe that partnering with established universities to instantly entry current applications is a quicker and extra reasonably priced approach of increasing choices than constructing them from scratch. For instance, pending approval of its partnership, Otterbein might see a radical enlargement of graduate applications in a brief time period slightly than constructing these over years.
“Clearly, establishments are intrigued by the potential advantages of coming collectively,” stated John MacIntosh, managing accomplice of SeaChange Capital Companions, which manages the Transformational Partnerships Fund established by a variety of greater education organizations to assist faculties discover potential collaboration choices.
There are additionally advantages of scale—methods to mix forces throughout accomplice campuses to scale back worker workloads in sure areas—however MacIntosh believes these value financial savings are much less essential to schools than the mixed advertising energy and visibility that can appeal to college students.
However the huge query faculties have to determine when contemplating partnerships is what’s wanted.
“Do we have to attempt to develop into simpler and environment friendly within the again workplace? Do we have to discover methods to enhance our recruitment and enrollment and retention? Do we have to one way or the other broaden our tutorial program to be extra in keeping with what the scholars we’re serving need? Or do we want the entire above?” MacIntosh stated. “I feel it’s harmful to type of look for only one factor in an affiliation, and I feel the higher query is, how may this handle our wants over all?”
MacIntosh additionally prompt that there’s room for optimism round such partnerships. He expects accreditors to be open-minded about new constructions given a necessity for innovation in greater ed.
He believes such partnerships are trigger for celebration—notably when leaders are searching for methods to innovate slightly than chasing determined concepts to maintain failing faculties alive.
“After all, there are many questions on how that is going to work,” MacIntosh stated. “However we ought to be celebrating these varieties of recent concepts, notably from two establishments which have stated—and I imagine that it’s true—that they’re not beneath any type of speedy monetary strain.”