The University of Bridgeport and Marlboro College on Thursday announced plans to merge. Marlboro, a liberal arts college in southern Vermont, enrolls just 142 students, according to federal data. The University of Bridgeport's campus is located about 140 miles away, in Connecticut. The private university enrolls roughly 5,500 students and offers master's and doctoral degrees, as well as certificates and associate and bachelor's degrees.
“At a time of hypercompetition and swift change in higher education, our two unique institutions are demonstrating a new paradigm for colleges and universities of the future,” Laura Skandera Trombley, Bridgeport's president, said in a written statement. “In strategically combining the shared values, strengths and resources of the University of Bridgeport and Marlboro College, we are proactively ensuring an extraordinarily enriched academic experience for current and future generations of students.”
Like many small independent colleges, particularly in the Northeast, Marlboro has faced "significant revenue challenges" due to the rapid and accelerating decline in traditional-aged college students in New England, the college's president and board chair said in a written statement. The college had been pursuing a partnership that could maintain its mission and academic priorities while creating stable finances.
Trombley "recognizes what makes Marlboro so special and believes we will add an important dimension to the Bridgeport curriculum," the statement from Marlboro's leaders said. "She appreciates our focus on the liberal arts, the opportunities that come with our beautiful rural campus and Marlboro’s egalitarian approach to governance and study. Our initial agreement with the University of Bridgeport demonstrates Laura’s commitment to protecting Marlboro’s campus and academic mission while giving Marlboro students access to the focused disciplinary and professional educational offerings that distinguish UB."
Bridgeport in recent years has done some restructuring. Last year it merged 14 schools and programs into three colleges, for example. And the university this year dropped programs in naturopathic medicine, martial arts, design management, religion and politics, and East Asian and Pacific Rim studies, as well as concentrations in master’s-level programs in technology management and business administration. It created several new programs, including an online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and campus-based bachelor’s degrees in performing arts and computer engineering technology.