Local health college merging into Philly school

The Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences moved in 2016 to the Greenfield business park in East Lampeter Township. (photo/submitted)

An expanding Philadelphia university is taking over Lancaster County-basedPennsylvania College of Health Sciences.

  • The Lancaster-area school, which has nearly 2,000 students, has agreed to become part of Saint Joseph’s University, the second acquisition for the Philly school.
  • The merger, expected to close in January 2024, is designed to create more opportunities for students at Pennsylvania College while extending the reach of St. Joe’s beyond Philadelphia.
  • The merger also gives St. Joe’s a menu of in-demand educational programs in nursing and other health professions, which is part of the school’s strategy for reversing broader trends in college enrollment, according to St. Joe’s spokesperson Gail Benner.
  • College enrollment has been falling in the U.S. for more than a decade.

Will the name change: Yes, according to Benner. 

  • The Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences moniker will be replaced by Saint Joseph’s University, but exactly how the Lancaster school’s programs will fit organizationally has yet to be determined.
  • St. Joe’s recently wrapped up a merger with Philadelphia’s University of the Sciences, which also added health programs, including programs for pharmacists and physician assistants.
  • St. Joe’s has nearly 8,000 students.

What else is next: Following the merger, St. Joe’s plans to preserve Pennsylvania College’s longstanding ties to Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, which employs more than 800 students from the college. 

  • That includes maintaining a pathway to health care jobs for Lancaster-area residents and reserving clinical placements for St. Joe’s nursing students at Penn Medicine.
  • In addition, LG Health and St. Joe’s will collaborate to evaluate and adapt educational offerings to meet the health care workforce demands of Central PA, according to a press release.

The background: Pennsylvania College was born in 1903 as a nursing school established by what was then called Lancaster General Hospital.

  • The school began adding other programs in 1949 and became Lancaster Institute for Health Education in 1995, according to an online timeline.
  • The school became the Lancaster General College of Nursing and Health Sciences before settling on Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences in 2009.
  • Long based in Lancaster city, the college moved to 850 Greenfield Road in 2016.

The primer: Facing declining enrollment and following the financial strains of Covid-19, colleges and universities are emerging as a hotbed of M&A activity.

  • But consolidation is not just confined to private schools.
  • In Pennsylvania, schools operated by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education have merged to reduce overhead costs.
  • And Penn State is planning to consolidate its law school campuses in Carlisle and State College.


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