CofC and MUSC have been in talks about a potential merger “at least nine times” since 1864, but in the past, the reasons for consideration were not compelling enough to cause both institutions to move forward with formal planning. In the last year, both schools have met again, but this time the view is quite different.
A committee with six faculty members at both institutions met to “explore organizational structures that would best capitalize on the strengths and assets of both institutions.” This Institutional Organizational Review Committee (IORC) first met on Aug. 6, again on Aug. 13, and put out a joint publication on Aug. 31 titled “A White Paper” to summarize the merger issues considered by the IORC.
What is important to take away from the White Paper?
The major issues for consideration are questions of academics and institutional resources. It should be noted that most of the items considered below only apply if MUSC and CofC decide on merger, rather than formal collaboration.
Among academic considerations for a merger, differences in institutional culture and mission statements are at the top of the list. While the paper acknowledges that a formal merger may “increase the quality and quantity of research collaborations” for both CofC and MUSC, CofC is not a research institution. This is not to say that the College does not support research endeavors by students and faculty, rather that the College’s emphasis has long been on a comprehensive undergraduate liberal arts curriculum. The question becomes, then, what will happen to the liberal arts requirements if CofC shifts its focus to undergraduate research?
Differences in mission statements, notably that MUSC’s is solely focused on the future of their health care professionals, make a unified mission statement difficult to imagine should the schools merge. Both schools emphasize providing an excellent academic experience, and there are no overlapping areas of study, so the paper says “merging would not remove redundant degrees.” It would provide CofC students with more opportunities to take part in formal research, as well as more grant funding in the long-term. Both institutions would benefit from “cross-institutional employment, shared resources” and encouragement to “develop less conventional” research partnerships.
A merger would also create more opportunities for online and distance education in the “high demand” areas surrounding healthcare. The White Paper proposes that the majority of these online and distance programs will be at the graduate level.
Both schools are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, so student eligibility for financial aid should not change drastically.
Concerning academic ranking, according to the White Paper, nothing would change. It says that “a merger between the [College]… and MUSC would not produce a comprehensive research university that would compare in size and degree- granting status to other comprehensive reserach universities in the state (like USC or Clemson), nor would it achieve a higher ranking nationally than MUSC and the [College] have separately.”
The other major consideration is that of institutional resources, namely personnel and money. The White Paper suggests that a pooling of personnel will not translate to mean less employment at either school. The belief is that both institutions will be able to “leverage expertise” but keep the current number of employed the same. The greatest challenge to personnel would be seen how each school is run. Upper level administration hierarchies are different for the College and MUSC, and a reorganization of governance would require more sacrifice by MUSC. For merger to work, a “greater separation between the hospital and [MUSC]” would be required, which would “threaten MUSC’s” core mission statement.
Monetarily, a merger is not believed to result in significant savings for either institution, and there is a threat to philanthropic and alumni giving. The White Paper states, “with a merger, it is likely that one of the two institutions will experience a loss of brand.”
While the literature has been compiled in the White Paper, more talks are still necessary before any formal decision is reached. The fact that a white paper has been released, though, is an indication of how serious the consideration is becoming. As you can see from the summary above, there are obvious benefits and drawbacks to the merger, as with any other.
For examples of successful mergers, the white paper suggests you look into the cases of Rutgers/University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey and University of Toledo/Medical University of Ohio. For examples of successful institutional collaborations (without formal merger) look into Indiana University- Perdue/University of Indianapolis and University of Maryland-Baltimore/University of Maryland College Park.