Introducing the Transformational Partnerships Fund

Many institutions of higher education recognize the need to transform their educational and business models in ways that can help drive student success. One way to do this may be forming a partnership with one or more other institutions.

The Transformational Partnerships Fund (TPF) supports colleges and universities interested in exploring partnerships that could fundamentally improve how they operate and serve students — especially students of color, students from low-income families, and other underserved populations. TPF was established by ECMC Foundation, and SeaChange, with additional support from Ascendium Education Group, The Kresge Foundation, and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

Institutions of higher education are in a period of profound change.

For many colleges and universities, today’s demographic, cultural, economic and public health challenges are daunting and unprecedented. Whether an institution is interested in exploring sharing administrative services, consolidating academic offerings, or even merging with another college or university, TPF provides confidential, philanthropic resources to help consider the full range of partnership options.


Financial Stability
Only 52% of U.S. college and university business officers are confident their institution will be financially stable over the next five years.


Return to Normal Operations
Only 25% of U.S. college and university business officers expect to be able to ride out the downturn and return to normal operations within in a year’s time.


Probability of Merger
More than 20% of college and university business officers think their institution should merge with another college or university within the next five years

Source: Inside Higher Ed/Gallup 2020 Survey of College and University Business Officers

How the Transformational Partnerships Fund works

Working with TPF, college and university leaders have the opportunity to access technical assistance, grant funding, specialized resources and more. TPF builds on the experience of its funders, managers and advisors, all of whom have deep experience and real-world knowledge in higher education and the creation of successful partnerships.

All discussions are held in strict confidence, and grant funding may be provided to support the exploration of partnerships in many forms — from shared administrative services or consolidated academic offerings on one end of the spectrum, to full mergers on the other.

All Students At Risk

12% of all students currently enrolled in a college or university are attending an institution that is at risk.

Black Students
Students At Risk

19% of all Black students currently enrolled in a college or university are attending an institution that is at risk.

That’s 340,000 students across the United States.

Institutional failure has a disproportionate impact on students of color and underserved populations.

Source: The College Stress Test: Tracking Institutional Futures across a Crowded Market; Robert Zemsky

“Our institutions are increasingly intrigued by the potential of partnerships, but taking the first step is hard. It’s wonderful that philanthropic funders recognize the importance of helping them and have established the Transformational Partnerships Fund to do it.”

—Belle S. Wheelan, Ph.D.
President, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

“Exploring a merger or strategic partnership is difficult for leaders even when it has the potential to be transformational for the students and institutions involved. The Transformational Partnerships Fund is a welcome resource for colleges and universities interested in taking the first step.”

—David Chard
Dean ad interim of Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development

News & Insights


Without Financial Help, Bloomfield College Risks Closure

Inside Higher Ed

The small private college in New Jersey is seeking philanthropic support and institutional partners to help keep its doors open. Absent some kind of intervention, the college may close before the end of the 2022-23 academic year. It’s unusual for a college to be so up front about its financial issues, experts say. Typically, such discussions occur behind the scenes with other institutional leaders who are interested in exploring a partnership.   Subscription may be required to read this post.

Read more >


The Road Not Taken

Inside Higher Ed

Mills College’s plan to merge with Northeastern University after earlier discussions with the University of California, Berkeley shows how discussions about partnerships can evolve — and the factors institutions must consider.  Subscription may be required to read this post.

Read more >


Public College and University Consolidations: Implications for Equity

Ithaka S+R

Across American higher education, institutional consolidations are on the rise. The conditions prompting these consolidations have been mounting for years yet there is in-depth analysis of their conditions, dynamics, and their impact on equitable access to and success in higher education. Ithaka S+R has released case studies of three recent examples of state-system-led institutional consolidation efforts: in Georgia, Wisconsin, and Texas. In these they discuss the origins, motivations, initiation, implementation, and outcomes of these completed consolidation efforts with particular attention on the implications of the consolidation process and outcomes for racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic equity. This work was supported by the Lumina Foundation.

Read more >


Funder spotlight: How The Kresge Foundation approaches higher ed

Inside Philanthropy

Earlier this year, Kresge partnered with ECMC Foundation, SeaChange Capital Partners and Ascendium Education Group to launch the Transformational Partnership Fund, which encourages university leaders to anonymously explore cross-institution partnerships, including mergers and consolidated academic offerings, to reduce costs and improve student outcomes. This is unique because foundations don’t often occupy themselves with initiatives that attempt to bend the higher ed cost curve.

Read more >

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