ST. PAUL (AP) -- Five colleges on Minnesota's Iron Range hit by declining enrollment in recent years plan to merge.

Minnesota State higher education system trustees endorsed the merger of the Northeast Higher Education District schools Wednesday in a unanimous vote.

The colleges, which have a combined enrollment of about 2,900 full-time students, share a president and some services. Despite the cooperation the colleges competed for students and had their own budgets, academic programs, enrollment management systems, accreditation and sports programs.

They include Hibbing Community College, Itasca Community College, Mesabi Range College, Rainy River Community College and Vermilion Community College.

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