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DSU to expand into downtown Dover with Wesley College acquisition

Milton Pratt
Delaware Public Media

Delaware State University is buying financially troubled Wesley College in Dover. 

DSU signed a definitive agreement Thursday to acquire Wesley by the end of next June. 

The acquisition will make DSU the first historically Black college or university to acquire a mainstream higher education institution, according to University officials.

Wesley College has been seeking a partner institution to merge with as its enrollment has dwindled. President Bob Clark calls this move a “catalytic force” to benefit not only students but the city and region.

“For a whole host of reasons—property values, having a … city that is truly a college and university city, as reflected by the main campus and the Wesley College campus,” he said during a live-streamed press conference Thursday.

Despite being a private institution, Wesley College has received millions of dollars from the state in recent years. 

DSU President Tony Allen says the acquisition will increase the university’s footprint, complement its academic programs and further its mission to serve students from traditionally underserved communities.

“We are focusing on being bigger, broader, and substantively the most diverse, contemporary and unapologetically historically Black college and university in the country,” he said during the press event. 

The deal is still contingent on a number of factors, including DSU finding sufficient private or government funding. DSU officials say that funding must come from outside its normal operating revenue and no existing revenue in its current budget can be used.

Allen says DSU plans to seek federal and private funding for the acquisition and will avoid asking for additional state funds in the short term. 

The acquisition is also subject to approval by governing and accrediting bodies, such as the U.S. Department of Education and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Allen says this is a year-long process.

University officials say they will coordinate Wesley College’s Fiscal Year 2021 operating expenses, negotiated contracts with vendors and other obligations.

Clark admitted the plan still has a “ways to go.” 

“The devil’s in the details,” he said. “Over the next year we still  have to figure out what this relationship will look like. But one thing is for certain, no matter how this ends up looking, no matter what responsibilities this campus takes on versus the main campus, the collective opportunities that we provide will only be amplified and the real winners at the end of the day are the young men and women that we both serve.”

The acquisition is part of DSU’s plan to roughly double its student body to 10,000, Allen says.

“Part of our particularly residential undergraduate portfolio calls for another 1,000 to 1,500 students,” he said. “I think there’s an opportunity to grow the Wesley portfolio somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000.”  

Allen says DSU has not decided how many members of Wesley’s faculty the University will retain.

“Obviously there is significant talent at Wesley College,” he said. “We want to take advantage of that talent going forward. We’ll certainly be reviewing that in accordance and in partnership with Wesley College.”


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