USciences and Salus U. talking about possible merger
The University of the Sciences and Salus University are in talks that could lead to a merger.
The University of the Sciences and Salus University — two health science focused institutions in the Philadelphia region - have begun talks on "forming a broad strategic partnership" that could result in a merger, the president of Salus wrote in an email to colleagues on Thursday.
"Although discussions are very much in an exploratory phase, our respective boards recognize the potential for growth as a combined institution far exceeds what either of us can accomplish alone," wrote Michael H. Mittelman, president of Salus University, formerly the Pennsylvania College of Optometry.
No time line for the talks has been set, Mittelman said in the email, obtained by The Inquirer.
The University of the Sciences, based in University City, offers both undergraduate and graduate programs with its top majors in pharmacy, physical therapy, biology, and occupational therapy, according to its web site. It enrolls about 2,520 undergraduate and graduate students.
Salus, which became a university in 2008, provides all professional and graduate degree and certificate programs, with its largest enrollment in optometry and other programs including audiology, physician assistant and occupational therapy. The Elkins Park-based university, which also encompasses the Eye Institute in East Oak Lane, reports an enrollment of more than 1,100.
"There's a whole lot of mixed feelings about it," said an employee of Salus, who asked not to be named. "Everybody is worried about their jobs…but we have kind of been assured that there's nothing to worry about right now."
"We also were told nothing is set in stone right now."
The announcement comes as many higher education institutions throughout the country are struggling to maintain enrollments and deal with mounting pressure to control tuition increases.
"As the landscape of American higher education has changed over the past few years," Mittelman wrote, "the boards at Salus and USciences felt it was important to consider how combining forces could strengthen health education delivery and be poised to meet the challenges of the 21st century."
Enrollment dipped 10 percent this year at the University of the Sciences, which had an enrollment of 2,800 last year. The university less than a year ago announced the sudden departure of its president, Helen Giles-Gee, who had been at the helm of the campus only two and a half years. Then board chair Marvin Samson became interim president.
In June, Kathleen Mayes, vice chair of the board and founder of Applied Clinical Communications, Inc., of Parsippany, N.J., took over the interim presidency.
The nearly two-centuries old university includes 23 buildings and sits on a 35-acre site.
Brian Kirschner, a spokesman for the university, said a letter similar to Mittelman's also went out to employees at the University of the Sciences.
Both Kirschner and Alexis Abate, a spokeswoman for Salus, said they could provide no additional information on the parameters of the talks or what prompted them.
Salus, nearly a century old, welcomed its largest incoming class this year, and enrollment overall is up a bit, Abate said. Its main campus is on 11.5 acres and includes three buildings. Its president has been at the helm for two years.