Delaware State University has officially completed its goal to acquire Wesley College, a private liberal arts college. In less than a year, the HBCU completed the takeover and now has plans to grow in a major way.
The move is a first for an HBCU. Delaware State is the first historically Black college or university to go out and acquire a non-HBCU school on its own.
“This is an unprecedented landmark in the long history of HBCUs,” former DSU president Harry Williams, who now leads the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, said when the deal was announced. “I am not surprised that Delaware State University is leading the way.”
“My intention is to grow our institution to about 10,000 folks over the next couple years, and this is a jumpstart to that opportunity,” said DSU president Tony Allen to WHYY/PBS. “There is real, and I do mean real, opportunity for us to grow the organization and to do that smartly.”
In 2019, DSU’s enrollment topped 5,000 for the first time and the university had 5,027 undergrad, graduate and online students attending amid the pandemic in fall 2020. With this acquisition, Delaware State University can expand in downtown Dover, which sits not too far from its main campus. It will inherit 50 acres, 21 buildings, and 14 academic programs. The university is also adding 71 former Wesley faculty and staff members to its payroll.
Wesley’s campus will become the new home to DSU’s College of Health and Behavioral Sciences, which combines nursing, occupational therapy, social work, and other health programs from both schools. The health school will help carry the Wesley name as a way to honor the school’s history and legacy.
“Our ability to provide educational opportunities, enhance cultural opportunities and economic development opportunities that drive the vitality of Kent County and Dover [is] important to us,” Allen added. “We believe [we] will certainly gain great synergies from the combined entity.”
The decision for new and former students to stay in Dover was made easier by a drastically reduced tuition. One undergrad year at Wesley cost students $43,000, compared to about $24,000 at DSU.
“I’m very excited about what this prospect brings for more students who need an open door, just need an opportunity to change their economic trajectory for themselves, their families, and their communities,” Allen said.