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Frequently Asked Questions

The decision to pursue a merger of Bluffton University operations with University of Findlay brings exciting possibilities. It also brings many questions. We provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions below. The answers represent what we know now. 

As the merger process proceeds with continued due diligence and within the shifting landscape of higher education, this information will evolve. This page will be updated as new or different information becomes available.  

If you have questions regarding the merger process that are not answered here, you may submit them using the form on our contact page 

FAQ Updated April 3, 2024 (new questions added in blue)

Merger Information

Why are University of Findlay and Bluffton University pursuing a merger?

University of Findlay and Bluffton University share roots as private, faith-based institutions dedicated to preparing students of diverse backgrounds for meaningful lives, productive careers, responsible citizenship, and service to all peoples. The decision to pursue a merger signals our ongoing commitment to providing academic excellence in supportive communities that value faith and intellect, the sciences and the humanities, professional programs, and the liberal arts.

Higher education faces significant changes and challenges. The four years between 2018-2022 saw 95 college mergers, and throughout 2023, 14 colleges or universities closed, most of them private, four-year institutions (Hartman Executive Advisors, 2023; Inside Higher Ed, 2023). 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.

The future of higher education is partnerships. The merger of our institutions would increase opportunities for current and future students, especially in academic programs and support services. By combining the best of pre-professional and liberal arts programs at both universities, we would become even better at preparing students to discover, to research, and to explore what brings meaning to their lives.

The merger would also create opportunities for collaboration among employees. In the longer term, greater efficiency in program and operational delivery is possible.

Students and employees alike would benefit from expanded resources available on campuses 20 minutes apart.

Both universities are vital members of our respective communities. Community leaders and area residents recognize and value the contributions we make to education, economic development, and an improved quality of life. The merger would enrich these contributions.

Together, University of Findlay and Bluffton University would establish an even stronger premier institution of higher education in Northwest Ohio.

Maintaining individual identities and heritages is a goal of the proposed merger of University of Findlay and Bluffton University. Other schools have successfully completed mergers where both institutions have retained their individual identities.

 

Conrad Grebel University College is an example of a Mennonite institution retaining its identity while being affiliated with the larger, University of Waterloo, since the 1960s.

In Pennsylvania, three schools, Clarion, California, and Edinboro, maintain separate identities, sports teams, academics, and mascots, yet are all under the Pennsylvania Western University umbrella.

The “pending” language is being used because both institutions must await final approvals from various regulatory bodies to complete a merger. Both Findlay and Bluffton have every intention of merging; however, this stage in the process is about continuing with our due diligence and following regulatory processes. Until approvals occur, University of Findlay and Bluffton will actively work together to plan their future while maintaining their separate and independent accreditations and degree-granting authority.

Both institutions have endured economic challenges in their century-long histories, and financials are always top of mind at institutions of higher education. Both universities come to this potential merger from a place of financial stability.

This merger is not being pursued as a cost-cutting endeavor.  It presents the opportunity for a stronger, larger university with two campuses. Together, the combined institutions would be able to achieve efficiency through shared resources in information technology services (software), vendor contracts (food and insurance), and others. Additionally, together the two campuses would enjoy expanded human resources, counseling, and Title IX services.

Currently, Findlay and Bluffton combined have approximately 50 open positions on their campuses. Filling positions for higher education professionals is difficult in Northwest Ohio, and this merger would allow for many collaborations between employees.

University of Findlay is not buying Bluffton University. After the merger, the operational finances of the newly merged institution will be combined. Both Findlay and Bluffton are going into this proposed merger from fiscally stable positions.

University of Findlay has an average annual enrollment of 3,500 students, which includes nearly 400 international students. Bluffton University has an average annual enrollment of 700 students. Both University of Findlay’s and Bluffton University’s Fall 2024 enrollment projections are strong.

The process began organically through discussions of possible collaborations and shared academic program opportunities across both campuses. These conversations grew into more formal dialogue as the synergies became clearer.

In Fall 2023, the universities’ Boards of Trustees hired Higher Ed Consolidation Solutions (HCS) to complete an objective, third-party due diligence report (including all financials) assessing the benefits and risks of a merger. The HCS assessment found no major barriers and identified many benefits. Funding for the third-party due diligence report was made possible by the Transformational Partnerships Fund, which provides support for institutions of higher education to explore student-centric partnerships.

At their respective February 2024 meetings, the Boards of Trustees at University of Findlay and Bluffton University voted unanimously to take the next steps toward a merger. The signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on March 19, 2024, formalized the intentions of both universities to pursue a merger of Bluffton University operations with University of Findlay.

Until March 19, 2024, when the MOU was signed, the proposed merger was still in the due diligence phase and not officially moving forward. Only Boards of Trustees can make the decision to move forward with a merger, and plans for a merger could only move forward after an MOU was signed. It was important to the leadership teams at both Findlay and Bluffton that faculty, staff, students, and supporters of each school were notified as soon as possible after the MOU was signed; thus, the March 20, 2024 announcement.

The merger process occurs in four phases:  

Phase 1 — Due Diligence: In this phase, an objective, third-party due diligence report (including all financials) assessing the benefits and risks of a merger was completed. This information was reviewed by the leadership and Boards of Trustees at both institutions. Both Boards of Trustees voted to move forward, which led to the drafting of a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The Boards of Trustees at both universities then agreed to the terms established in the MOU, which was signed by the Board Chairs and University Presidents.  

Phase 2 — Alignment with Continued Due Diligence: In this phase, individual university missions, visions, and strategic plans as well as academic programs, support services, and operational processes are aligned. Throughout the realignment, each university’s strong roots as an institution of higher learning grounded in Christian faith and committed to academic excellence will be honored.  

  • During this phase, approvals are sought from external organizations. Before any final merger document is signed, approval must be granted by several external organizations. These include the Higher Learning Commission, which accredits both University of Findlay and Bluffton University; the Ohio Department of Higher Education; the U.S. Department of Education; and the NCAA. 
  • Phase 2 is anticipated to take between 12-15 months. During this time, University of Findlay and Bluffton University will continue to operate as independent institutions. Phase 2 would conclude with a merger document signed by both Board Chairs and Presidents.  

Phase 3 — Implementation: Following final approval from all external organizations, transfer of ownership would occur, and Bluffton University operations would legally be merged with University of Findlay.  

Phase 4 — Launch: The new university structure would be launched and celebrated. We anticipate our launch and celebration would occur in Fall 2025.  

We would expect to launch and celebrate the new university structure Fall 2025, pending legal approval from all external organizations.

Once final merger documents are signed, the new university system will be led by one President and a Cabinet consisting of vice presidents who oversee specific campus functions (e.g. academic programs, student services, enrollment, etc.). The Bluffton University campus will have an on-site senior leader who will sit on the Findlay President’s Cabinet. The president of the new university system would report to a Board of Trustees, which would consist of representation from both University of Findlay and Bluffton University.

Until the proposed merger is completed, both schools will continue to be led by their current Presidents, Cabinets, and Boards of Trustees.

University of Findlay and Bluffton University will continue to operate as independent institutions, until legal approval is granted. No decision regarding Bluffton University’s name has been made at this time.

Relationships with the universities’ founding denominations would be maintained after a merger. Bluffton’s Mennonite heritage would be honored as would University of Findlay’s commitment to Churches of God, General Conference. Each campus would maintain the presence of a campus pastor and spiritual life activities. These relationships nourish our individual campus identities and our shared heritage as institutions founded in Christian faith and welcoming to all; they provide the strong roots that enable us to grow our brighter future.

Both institutions have similar values and commitments, particularly a foundation in the Christian faith. Bluffton intends to remain affiliated with Mennonite Church USA, while Findlay intends to remain affiliated with the Churches of God, General Conference. A campus minister with connections to Mennonite Church USA will remain on Bluffton’s campus, and University of Findlay will maintain a campus pastor associated with the Churches of God, General Conference. Campus Ministry groups will continue on both campuses.

After a merger, in recognition of Bluffton’s mission, tradition and history, The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center (or other Mennonite/Anabaptist focused center) would be staffed and maintained as a symbol of Bluffton’s history and culture.

A Transition Team focusing on faith and culture at both Findlay and Bluffton will assess and address the best ways to maintain the heritage of each campus after a merger.

There will be opportunities to have your voice heard and your questions answered. Town Hall forums will be held, and you may submit your questions directly using the form on our contact page. Transition teams will be created to examine the processes and procedures for bringing the two institutions into alignment.

If a merger does not occur, University of Findlay and Bluffton University would remain independent institutions. The universities would continue to seek other innovative ways to adapt and respond to the challenges currently facing institutions of higher education, including other ways to collaborate together.

This artwork and its variations will appear in official communications during the second and third phases of the merger process. The artwork gives a visual presence to our Strong Roots and even Brighter Future as Findlay and Bluffton come together to achieve something greater. It is not intended for external use or in merchandising. This artwork would be replaced with our new joint brand, which would be revealed during Phase 4, when we launch and celebrate.

For Students

How will students at each university benefit from a merger?

Bluffton University offers academic programs that University of Findlay does not and vice versa. For example, students at Bluffton have opportunities to earn undergraduate degrees in nutrition and dietetics and in speech, language pathology and audiology. Bluffton also offers a registered dietitian nutritionists (RDN) integrated master’s program and a Master of Social Work degree. These programs may appeal to University of Findlay students, especially those pursuing degrees in health professions and social work.

Bluffton’s pre-Physical Therapy students will have a pathway into University of Findlay’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program. University of Findlay offers degrees in pharmacy, pre-vet, animal science, and computer science. Findlay also has a physician’s assistant program. These programs, among others, may be attractive to Bluffton students.

Both campuses are also home to vibrant and inviting spaces that would be available to all students. Below are some of the notable spaces on each campus.

University of Findlay Campus Map
Notable Spaces (in alphabetical order):

 

Bluffton University Campus Map
Notable Spaces (in alphabetical order):

Until legal approval is granted, University of Findlay and Bluffton University will continue to operate as independent institutions and tuition and fees will be set by each university individually. We are exploring ways to bridge any differences in costs and moderate any changes that would occur because of a merger. Tuition and fees for the 2024-25 academic year have been set by each institution and will be reflected in your financial aid offer.

For 2024-25, Financial aid offers will be administered by the university where you are currently enrolled or plan to attend and will not be affected by the merger process.

University of Findlay and Bluffton University will continue to have separate financial aid processes, so use the federal school code number of the university where you are currently enrolled or to which you are applying. University of Findlay’s federal school code number is 003045. Bluffton University’s federal school code number is 003016.

University of Findlay and Bluffton University will continue to have separate enrollment processes. If you are a new student applying to both schools, you must submit applications to Findlay and Bluffton or list both for the Common App. Enrollment decisions will continue to be made by each institution.

Even outside of a merger, changes occur to academic programs. If there were a discontinuation of an academic program, both campuses would make every effort to “teach out” a major so that a student could finish that program. Both universities will support students who may want or need to change programs.

Academic programs on both campuses have admissions requirements that must be met for students to enroll. After a merger is completed, all students would be part of one university system on two campuses. A benefit of the proposed merger could be a seamless transition for eligible students who are interested in moving from undergraduate to graduate programs within the system. This process will be assessed and addressed by the Transition Teams during Phase 2 – Alignment with Continued Due Diligence.

Until legal approval is granted, University of Findlay and Bluffton University will continue to operate as independent institutions. You will register for classes at your current institution, using the existing registration process.

Until legal approval is granted, University of Findlay and Bluffton University will continue to operate as independent institutions. You will take your in-person classes on your current campus. Online classes will be accessed through your university’s current learning management system (e.g., Canvas or Moodle).

After the proposed merger is completed, there could be a need for transportation between the two campuses. University of Findlay currently provides transportation to students who travel between main campus and the Eastern and Western Equestrian farms. Transportation needs will be assessed and addressed by the Transition Teams during Phase 2 – Alignment with Continued Due Diligence.

For a student graduating before Fall semester 2025, your diploma will be granted by and display the name of the school you currently attend.

Together, University of Findlay and Bluffton University offer over 150 student clubs and organizations. A benefit of the proposed merger is that students would have increased opportunities to participate in these organizations on both campuses. The level of participation will depend in part on the type of activity. Some activities (e.g. Greek organizations) have specific participation rules set by their governing authorities. During Phase 2 – Alignment with Continued Due Diligence, student leaders from University of Findlay and Bluffton University will be invited to provide input.

Athletics

How will a merger affect student-athletes?

Until legal approval is granted, student-athletes will continue to compete in their current athletic program as NCAA Division II University of Findlay Oilers and NCAA Division III Bluffton University Beavers. The intention, pending NCAA approval, is that the athletics programs at each institution will continue to operate under two divisions with University of Findlay competing in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference and Bluffton University competing in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. This is a model that other schools who have merged are following successfully.

The intention is that University of Findlay will remain the Oilers, with Derrick the Oiler as the team mascot, while Bluffton University will remain the Beavers, with J. Denny Beaver and Jenny Beaver as the team mascots.

A merger would not affect a student-athlete’s eligibility. University of Findlay will maintain its NCAA DII status.

Only University of Findlay athletes are eligible for NCAA DII athletic scholarships.

Student-athletes will continue to use the athletic facilities on their current campus.

Student-athletes should follow the NCAA transfer process.

Communication

I am an employee. Where do I go with questions?

Start with your area supervisor or department chair/program director.

Significant updates will continue to be shared with employees, students, families, alumni, and the community through this website, email, and other means of communication as appropriate.

We will continue to update this FAQ page as decisions are made and new information is available. You may also submit questions using the form on our contact page.

Azziz, R., Hentschke, G. C., Jacobs, L. A., & Jacobs, B. (2019). Strategic mergers in higher education. Johns Hopkins.

Bauman, D. (2024, February 7). Colleges were already bracing for an ‘enrollment cliff.’ Now there might be a second one. Chronicle of Higher Education.

Blake, J. (2024, March 1). Making mergers easier in New York. Inside Higher Ed.

Blake, J. (2024, April 9). Wisconsin college teeters on the brink, in public. Inside Higher Education.

Bransberger, P., Falkenstern, C., & Lane, P. (2020, December). Knocking at the college door: Projections of high school graduates. Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

Churchill, M., & Chard, D. (2021). When colleges close: Leading in a time of crisis. Johns Hopkins.

Higher Ed Dive Team. (2024, March 27). A look at trends in college consolidation since 2016. Higher Ed Dive. https://www.highereddive.com/news/how-many-colleges-and-universities-have-closed-since-2016/539379/

Martin, J., Samels, J., & Associates (2017). Consolidating colleges and merging universities: New strategies for higher education leaders. Johns Hopkins.

Rosowsky, D. (2024, February 3). The cliffs of higher ed: Who’s going over and why? Forbes.

Smetanka, J. (2024, April 2). Yes, colleges do close. Inside Higher Ed.

Alumni

Why was I not able to share my opinion about the proposed merger prior to the announcement?

The decision to pursue a merger could only be made by the Boards of Trustees at each school. These Boards include alumni representation; in fact, Bluffton University’s current Board of Trustees is completely made up of alumni. The Boards decided to pursue a merger after a thoughtful and careful discernment process where the risks and benefits of a merger were assessed; this is called the “due diligence” phase. Until the MOU was signed, the decision to pursue a merger was neither final nor official. To make public the intention to pursue a merger prior to the signing of the MOU would have been premature.

Now that the proposed merger is public, transition teams made up of stakeholders from both Findlay and Bluffton will actively work together to plan their collective future while awaiting the needed regulatory approvals.

Until legal approval is granted, University of Findlay and Bluffton University will continue to operate as independent institutions; each will manage its own endowment. Endowments will continue to be governed by the criteria documents that guided their creation. Endowed funds created specifically for either University of Findlay or Bluffton University will continue for those purposes. No changes can be made in the use of any endowed fund without permission from the donor. If permission cannot be obtained (due to donor death) then other legal steps are required to make changes.

Until legal approval is granted, University of Findlay and Bluffton University will continue to operate as independent institutions; each will manage its own assets, donations, and endowments. During this time, and even after a merger, alumni and friends can direct their gifts to a specific institution and/or specific area(s) of the institutions for which they have the most affinity. Whether the interest is in giving to Findlay, Bluffton, or corporately to the post-merger institution, donors will retain the opportunity to express their philanthropic wishes accordingly.