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Jefferson-Philadelphia University Merger Setting New Standards, Getting Attention


What do you get when you combine a university known for its design, engineering, and health science programs and one of the best health sciences universities in the country? A winning combination called Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University).

The unique merger of Philadelphia University and Thomas Jefferson University has gained attention from schools across the country interested in creating the next generation of higher education programs. In the United States, universities are experiencing declining enrollments and tight budgets as the number of 18-year-olds falls and competition and pressure to keep tuition affordable increase. Some experts predict that without drastic changes, as many as half of U.S. colleges could go bankrupt over the next few decades. The leaders of Jefferson and Philadelphia University not only recognized the need to try something different, but also have embraced, even marketed, it.

Once defined as a school for healthcare professionals, Jefferson now has athletic teams and an annual campus fashion show. And the fledgling engineers who once dominated Philadelphia University now are sharing classroom space and collaborating with students in scrubs.

For instance, a Thomas Jefferson University research surgeon wanted to find a way to make youth sports helmets safer. He had the medical expertise, but not the engineering. Now, the young surgeon has engineering students and professors working on the problem with him at the Philadelphia University East Falls campus.

And it appears to be succeeding; leaders, faculty, and students are encouraged by early signs—donations are up, there has been a surge in undergraduate applications, and there is a growing number of partnerships between the campuses.