University Business May 2017 - 8

OnTopic

Q&A with James Martin and James E. Samels

Partnerships can
prevent school closures
A new book offers tips on forming higher ed alliances

The "perfect storm" of a weak
economy, the expansion of forprofit schools and greater competition for fewer students has forced
many colleges to become more
strategic about their survival, and
to avoid previously unthinkable
options, including closing their
doors for good.
In Consolidating Colleges
and Merging Universities (2017,
Johns Hopkins University Press),
James Martin and James Samels
bring together higher education
leaders to discuss how institutions
might cooperate with their competitors to survive. In a collection
of essays, the book offers specific
guidelines and actions institutions
have used to create multiple forms
of successful partnerships.
The authors of UB's online
"Future Shock" column, Martin
is a professor of English at Mount
Ida College in Massachusetts.
Samels is the CEO and president
of The Education Alliance and
the founder of Samels & Associates, a law firm concentrating in
higher education law.
8 | May 2017

You wrote another book on this topic
some years ago. What has changed?
Samels: That earlier book dealt with
different types of consolidations. There
were a number of historic consolidations
but they were structural mega-consolidations. Now we're talking about transactions, we're talking about transferring
programs. This book is about identifying
mission-complementary, mutual profitable ways, without extinguishing the
other guy's mission. In fact, it would
strengthen their mission.
Martin: I would add that in the years
since the first book, Jim and I didn't see
colleges that were ready to merge. They
were ready to do other things-what
they called unification-but what they
didn't want to get into was a partnership,
where one president had to be edged out
and one provost wasn't going to make
it. That started us talking with these
schools to find a format that works best
for them, whether it is a partnership, a
co-venture, a strategic alliance or something like that.
You devote a lot of space to discussing
strategic alliances. Is that your preferred solution?
Samels: It depends. If you're a small,
Catholic, single-sex school, you know
you're not that nimble. You have a high
fixed cost and are 90 percent tuition
dependent, your tuition discount rates

UBmag.me/closure

are 63 percent and your debt service is at
17 percent. In those cases, a lot of people
would say, "death with dignity" rather
than a strategic alliance.
You don't know how many colleges
we've helped close over the last 30 years,
and there's going to be more. There are
too many of these colleges and too few
students. Nobody wants to deal with
that. Our closure business is going to
pick up in this year.
Martin: I think that's true. But to
answer your question, the start of the
conversation is between two institutions
partnering, co-venturing, and the book
is mainly about how to begin that kind
of conversation.
Many people think of consolidation
and merger as the same thing. Explain
the difference.
Samels: In a merger, A goes into B and
B is the surviving entity. For example,
years ago Newton College of the Sacred
Heart was merged into Boston College.
You never heard of Sacred Heart again.
That was a merger. In a consolidation, A
and B together become C. So, Western
Reserve University and the Case Institute of Technology consolidate to become Case Western Reserve University.
There are plenty of examples like that-
Carnegie Mellon, and Hobart and William Smith Colleges, to name two.
The thing we're not doing enough of
is public-private collaboration, and we're
especially not doing enough in terms of
non-duplication of courses and services.
Martin: When people hear the word
merger, they will often assume, erronewww.universitybusiness.com


http://www.UBmag.me/closure http://www.universitybusiness.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of University Business May 2017

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