June 13, 2023
Drexel University and Salus University have signed a formal merger agreement, which would combine their health sciences graduate programs and expand student access to facilities.
The two universities announced in April that they had begun exploring an affiliation that would make their programs more competitive. The finalized plan for a merger still requires regulatory and judicial approvals, but the two institutions celebrated their pact with a ceremonial signing on Tuesday.
“We look forward to launching a process with Salus that will bring together the complementary strengths of both institutions in graduate health sciences education and clinical practice,” Drexel President John Fry said. “This merger represents an exciting opportunity to strengthen Drexel’s place as a leader in preparing future interprofessional health sciences practitioners.”
Salus University, a private school with a campus in Elkins Park, Montgomery County, was founded in 1919 as the Pennsylvania State College of Optometry. It is one of the oldest optometry colleges in North America, offering a traditional doctor of optometry program and an accelerated, three-year program along with residency opportunities.
Over the last several decades, Salus has added programs in audiology, physician assistant studies, biomedicine, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy and orthotics and prosthetics. The school has an enrollment of more than 1,100 students and clinical facilities in Philadelphia and Montgomery County, including the Eye Institutes at Chestnut Hill.
“We believe that this merger will significantly improve the student experience through expanded educational programs, new clinical opportunities and a wealth of options for research collaboration and grant funding,” Salus President Michael Mittelman said.
As part of the merger, Salus students would be eligible to participate in Drexel's co-op program, which offers real-world job experience with paid positions in their fields of interest.
The two universities said the merger will increase enrollment, expand Drexel's physician assistant program and promote interdisciplinary research in new areas.
Drexel had a combined enrollment of just over 23,000 undergraduate and graduate students last year. Its top health sciences tracks are its medical, biomedical, public health, nursing and health professions programs.
The planned merger is the latest in a string of similar partnerships that have emerged between universities in the region in recent years.
Thomas Jefferson University merged with the former Philadelphia University in 2017, while the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education last year merged six of its schools to create the new Commonwealth University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Western University.
In January, St. Joseph's University also announced it will add a nursing program by merging with the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences in Lancaster.
The last time Drexel pursued a major affiliation was in 2011, when it established an affiliation with the Academy of Natural Sciences.
The next step in the Drexel-Salus merger will be the creation of an integration council that brings together faculty and professional staff from both universities to develop a plan for incorporating Salus programs into Drexel. That process is expected to take at least year to complete as the merger is reviewed by regulators.