After a nearly four-month evaluation, St. Joseph’s University and the University of the Sciences will proceed with a plan to merge their institutions, the presidents of both said.
The merger will require about a dozen federal and state regulatory and accreditation reviews or filings and is expected to be completed in about a year. The boards of both private universities and their presidents have voted for and signed an agreement that the schools are not making public.
Both presidents said that their confidential review of legal, academic, and financial issues revealed nothing that would cause them to change course and that they thought the merger was best for both universities.
“The public and our constituencies know that this is the right move,” said Mark C. Reed, president of St. Joe’s. “This is going to be one of the defining moves, hopefully, for the next 20 or 30 years.”
The 200-year-old USciences, formerly Philadelphia College of Pharmacy — the nation’s first pharmacy college — will merge into St. Joseph’s, a 170-year-old Jesuit institution. St. Joseph’s will be the name of the combined institution, the presidents said, though USciences’ historic Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Samson College of Health Sciences will remain as schools within St. Joe’s, the leaders said.
The schools announced in February that they were looking at a potential merger to help them grow and thrive in an increasingly challenging higher-education market. Combined, the institutions will enroll more than 9,000 undergraduate and graduate students, employ nearly 450 faculty, and have an endowment in excess of a half-billion dollars, an operating budget over $300 million, assets of $1.2 billion, and nearly 95,000 living alumni.
St. Joseph’s had been looking to add health-care programs, but it was USciences, which has faced financial challenges, that approached St. Joe’s, noting proximity, complementary programs, and similar graduation and retention rates.
The schools have begun to plan for how they will combine, Reed said. No decisions have been made on whether jobs will be lost, the presidents said. Reed noted that there is not a lot of redundancy or overlap in programs.
“If there are ways through this merger that we can do things better or more efficiently, then we will absolutely look at that,” Reed said. “But the driving motivation is not to eliminate jobs.”
Tuition agreements and programs that current students or those who start next academic year have will be honored through graduation, university officials said.
Tenured faculty at USciences will become tenured St. Joe’s faculty, and St. Joe’s will elect some new trustees to its board from USciences, Reed said. Both campuses, which are less than five miles apart, will be retained. The St. Joseph’s campus straddles the Philadelphia/Lower Merion border and USciences is in West Philadelphia.
Reed will become president of the combined institution. Paul Katz, president of USciences, is supportive and is considering plans for his future, a St. Joe’s spokesperson said.
Katz acknowledged concern about the merger among his staff as there always is with an unknown. But he said the partnership makes sense.
“The compatibility of our missions, the commitment to our students and the culture, those things at the end of the day speak more about the positive nature of this relationship than anything else I can say,” Katz said.
Reed added that anyone with concerns about USciences’ identity and the core of its history should not worry.
“We value that,” he said. “We take that very seriously, and we intend to steward that very responsibly.”