AACRAO report offers guidance for closing and merging institutions

October 5, 2020
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Date: October 5, 2020

Contact: AACRAO Communications

AACRAO report offers guidance for closing and merging institutions
In the last five years over 1,200 institutions have shuttered, displacing nearly half a million students


In the last five years more than 1,200 institutions of higher education have closed, displacing nearly half a million students, according to a 2019 analysis of federal data by the The Chronicle of Higher Education. The current and anticipated increase in closings due to declining enrollments, decreasing budgets, and the ‘for-profit implosion’ will result in a growing number of students left with incomplete educations, as well as questions about their academic plans and personal finances. In addition, more higher education leaders have been looking at mergers as a means to ensure institutional viability and financial security.

From a records perspective, the closing and merger of institutions is an enormous undertaking. To support institutions tasked with preparing records in these circumstances, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) has released a “Closed or Merged Schools Report.”

Recommendations based on experience
The Closed & Merged Schools Work Group pulled together AACRAO members from across the United States who have been at institutions that closed or merged, or at institutions receiving those student records.

“Using their experiences, our report provides guidelines and best practices to assist institutions who find themselves merging or closing,” said Sarah Harris, Work Group Co-Chair and Senior Associate Registrar at the University of Iowa. “We acknowledge that sometimes decisions are reached by higher administration and it is the Registrar’s Office that is the one to ‘do the work.’”

Institutional responsibility
The closing institution bears a significant responsibility to ensure the secure transfer and safe-keeping of its student education records. The guidance provided by this report for both the closing and receiving institutions will help school officials ensure that records of the closed IHE are preserved and that students do not suffer undue burden and stress as a result of the closure.

“While each merger is unique,” said Elizabeth Amundson, Work Group Co-Chair and Registrar and Associate Provost at George Washington University, “this report will provide important guidance around the questions to ask and the things to consider as you navigate your way forward.”


AACRAO is a non-profit, voluntary, professional association of more than 11,000 higher education professionals representing approximately 2,600 institutions in more than 40 countries. Its commitment to the professional development of its members includes best practice guidance on admissions strategies to meet institutional diversity objectives, delivery of academic programs in innovative ways to meet the needs of a changing student body, and exemplary approaches to student retention and completion.