A case study of the merger of the technical and community colleges in Kentucky and Minnesota and implications for Georgia
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Many states currently have separate community and technical college systems. This separatism results in problems of redundancy, competing services and lack of an integrated curriculum. Minnesota and Kentucky, states that had separate technical and community college systems, dealt with these problems by merging their separate systems. As Georgia feels pressure to merge its technical and community colleges, the merger experiences of Kentucky and Minnesota provide an opportunity to learn valuable lessons. The purpose of this case study was to develop a deeper understanding of (a) the factors leading to the mergers of the technical and community college systems in Kentucky and Minnesota, (b) the dynamics that occurred during these mergers, (c) the impact of these mergers a decade after initiation, and (d) the lessons learned as a result of these mergers. This study included interviews with a total of 30 faculty, professional staff, and middle or upper level managers from college and central office administration, 15 within the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) and 15 within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU). Each individual was interviewed to assess their opinions and experiences about the mergers. An analysis of the data found several common themes and three core concepts. The prevailing answers to what drove the mergers dealt with inadequate resources and funding, workforce development, student barriers, and political desire, power and will. The most common answers on what happened during implementation related to cultural resistance, administrative process integration, integration of people and multilevel broad-based involvement. The most frequent answers about the impact of the mergers related to system culture, student access, political and corporate presence, and overall positive impression. The common answers about the lessons learned from the mergers related to cultural resistance and integration, implementation timing, leadership and communication, marketing and branding, and openness to change. Common across all four research questions were three core concepts: (a) cultural resistance, (b) communication need, and (c) stakeholder importance. The interpretation of these findings led to a few specific conclusions and implications.
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