Bluffton U to merge with University of Findlay


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Dive Brief:

  • Bluffton University will merge with the University of Findlay by fall 2025, pending approval from state agencies and their shared accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission.
  • The private Christian institutions — both founded in the 19th century — are located about 20 miles apart in northwest Ohio and will continue to operate independently until the merger is finalized. They said they are intent on honoring both campuses’ individual traditions following the merger. 
  • “To remain sustainable into the next century and beyond, universities are being called upon to take innovative approaches and bold actions. This merger would be both,” according to an FAQ on the merger.

Dive Insight:

 While the universities said they are entering the merger “from a place of financial stability,” both said they have faced financial challenges. 

Bluffton has suffered a significant drop in enrollment over the last decade, with its student body declining from 1,198 in fall 2012 to 745 in fall 2022, according to federal data.

The University of Findlay averaged almost 4,900 students during that time period, fluctuating slightly. But the university self-reported an average enrollment of 3,500 as of this year, pointing to a recent and sudden dip.

“We’re all aware that higher education is facing significant changes and challenges,” Katherine Fell, president of the University of Findlay, said in a statement. “These times call upon us to be innovative and forward-thinking.”

The trustee boards of both universities unanimously approved the merger in February. And leaders from both institutions announced this week that they had formalized the agreement through a memorandum of understanding.

Under the agreement, the University of Findlay will maintain both of the institutions’ campuses. The colleges did not specify if the merger will result in layoffs or a reduction in staff, and neither immediately responded to a request for comment Thursday. . The FAQ directed employees to bring questions to their department chair or program director. 

The colleges’ athletics teams would remain in their respective NCAA division, pending the association’s approval. 

It has not been decided if or how Bluffton’s name will be used following the merger. But an FAQ about the merger said relationships with both universities’ founding denominations — the Churches of God for the University of Findlay and Mennonite for Bluffton — would be maintained. 


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