Leaders of Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences (PA College) in Lancaster announced a definitive agreement on January 19 to become part of Saint Joseph’s University. The merger will expand both Saint Joseph’s geographic reach beyond Philadelphia and its academic portfolio with more than 20 nursing and allied health programs ranging from certificates through the doctoral level. The agreement also allows PA College to expand opportunities for students while preserving and stewarding its tradition of serving South Central Pennsylvania through excellence in healthcare education for more than 120 years.
“We know that programs like those offered at PA College are not only sought after by students, but they also have an exponential value in the communities where those students then go on to live, work and lead,” said Cheryl A. McConnell, PhD, interim president of Saint Joseph’s University. “It has long been our strategy to add nursing to our list of offerings for our students.”
Facilitated by a shared strategic alignment, complementary academic programing, financial capability, and leadership and board commitment, both institutions see the agreement as a way to expand their missions with opportunities for students through:
- advancement of academic programs in Lancaster and adding nursing programs to Saint Joseph’s Hawk Hill and University City locations;
- development of interprofessional and interdisciplinary programs at the intersection of societal need and student interest and;
- a responsive, sustainable academic portfolio that includes certificate and two-year nursing and allied health degree programs leading to family-supporting careers.
“By becoming part of Saint Joseph’s, we have an extraordinary opportunity to continue PA College’s valued role in the education and professional development of the regional healthcare workforce while expanding the geographic and demographic reach of its critically needed nursing and allied health programs,” said Mary Grace Simcox, EdD, RN, president of PA College.
In a statement on the merger of Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences and Saint Joseph’s University, which is a Catholic Jesuit university, Bishop Ronald Gainer said, “The Diocese of Harrisburg is the only diocese in Pennsylvania that does not house a Catholic university or college. Today’s news of the merger between the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences and Saint Joseph’s University changes that. Both the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences and Saint Joseph’s University have proud, distinguished histories of providing exceptional educational opportunities for their students. This merger will continue those histories, while expanding collegiate level Catholic healthcare training and opportunities in our Diocese.
“During this time of transition, my prayers are with the faculty, staff, students, administrators, and families of both the Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences and Saint Joseph’s University. I welcome Saint Joseph’s University to the Diocese of Harrisburg and look forward to future collaborations with this Catholic Jesuit institution,” he said.
PA College’s rich history includes a long-standing connection to its founder, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health (LG Health), where more than 800 employees are current PA College students and thousands more boast alumni status. PA College students’ licensure exam passage rates are among the best in the nation and state in nursing — a testament to PA College’s strong curricula and excellent faculty and LG Health’s outstanding clinical rotation experiences.
LG Health and Saint Joseph’s are committed to future students and patients through a joint healthcare-education pipeline, which will continue to provide a pathway to rewarding, financially secure careers for Lancaster-area residents. They will maintain strong affiliation agreements allowing for tuition benefits and clinical placements and will engage in ongoing conversations to address evolving healthcare workforce needs. Additionally, the University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine) will reserve clinical placements in the Philadelphia metropolitan area for Saint Joseph’s nursing students.
Saint Joseph’s and LG Health intend to continually evaluate and adapt educational offerings to meet Southeastern Pennsylvania’s evolving healthcare workforce demands with a sustainable academic portfolio.
Nearly 2,000 PA College students will become part of the Saint Joseph’s community following the closing of the merger, which is planned for January of 2024, after a one-year period of integration planning and efforts. Closing of the merger is subject to a variety of accreditation and government approval processes.