The American college sector is seeing a spate of mergers : The Indicator from Planet Money Small liberal arts colleges across the US have been struggling for years. COVID has made things worse. Now many are facing the prospect of closing down. Or being gobbled up in a merger.

The College Buyout Boom

The College Buyout Boom

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Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The average cost of one year of college in the US is now more than $20,000 a year for public schools and about $50,000 dollars a year for private school. Many run close to $80,000 a year. In spite of that, schools across the country have had trouble balancing the books. And the COVID crisis has pushed many colleges over the edge.

Some are dropping out, and closing their doors for good. Faced with that prospect, others have decided to make the best of a bad hand, and gussie themselves up for a merger. The sector has seen a rash of acquisitions recently, and while that may be good for the institutions concerned, it's often bad news for students.

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Correction Jan. 27, 2021

In an earlier version of this episode, we said Pennsylvania State University had closed some of its regional campuses. This is incorrect. Penn State has not closed any of its campuses. We have removed the language related to that error.