DOVER — Delaware State University’s top request for state funding this year is $2.56 million to cover salaries and benefits for the faculty and staff members brought on from acquiring the former Wesley College last year.
The total personnel costs for the 62 staff members that transitioned to Delaware’s only historical Black university is $5.9 million and DSU is seeking funding to cover 43% of those costs. DSU President Tony Allen maintains that the Wesley acquisition — and hiring 60% of its staff — is critical to DSU’s future and maintaining economic momentum in Dover.
“We know if Wesley had ended there, and there was no suitor to take its place, it would have been an economic hole in the city and we couldn’t stand for that,” Allen told the state legislature’s Joint Finance Committee during a Feb. 3 presentation. “The acquisition preserved $85 million in economic capacity for the city. We think we can double that in five years.”
Gov. John Carney has allocated $39.9 million to DSU in the state’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget, a 1.9% increase from the current fiscal year. That allocation includes $195,700 for “acquisition-related costs.”
DSU spent most of FY 2022 finalizing the merger of Wesley College, a campus with lagging enrollment but possessing 50 acres of land in the heart of the state capital. Throughout the process, Allen had publicly promised that the acquisition would not cost DSU upfront, and the university raised $40 million in its quest to acquire it. Now the campus is known as Wesley College of Health and Behavioral Sciences at DSU Downtown.
Allen has projected DSU Downtown will cost $15 million in renovations over the course of three years. But acquiring the land gave the university room to grow, as it hit record enrollment for the fall 2021 semester at 5,649 students. Another 2,000 student will come to DSU Downtown with the launch of the Early College High School.
“I believe Delaware State is a 10,000-person university, and we hope to get there by 2030,” Allen said. “That’s not to mention the faculty and staff that come with them, and think of those jobs that you are preserving.”
Complimentary to its DSU Downtown plans, Allen and his administration also proposed a combined $2.3 million to support the College of Health and Behavioral Sciences. The biggest allocation would be $1.5 million to expand the capacity of the nursing program. Carney allocated $195,800 in the FY 2022 budget for that program.
DSU’s nursing program is on track to graduate 72 students in the spring 2022, and Allen is continuing to bet that with the support of the former Wesley’s staff and infrastructure, that program will continue to see increased demand. In 2019, Wesley College had roughly 400 applicants for 40 nursing program slots.
With the proposed $1.5 million, DSU would hire an additional 14 faculty and administrative staff to grow the program to more than 100 graduates per year by 2023.
The Wesley acquisition also gave DSU access to the state’s only Master of Occupational Therapy program, and the university is seeking to expand its program. With the requested $475,000 DSU would add four faculty members, one clinical educator to grow the graduating class to 125 students. Right now, the program graduates 80 students.
DSU also seeks $621,000 to create a master’s program in clinical psychology for diverse populations, which will create five new staff positions. This would build off a new law signed by Carney that requires clinical staff in schools that teach kindergarten to fifth grade, with one per 250 students.
“Think of this as the real transformation of Delaware State University,” Allen added. “I don’t need to talk to you about the shortage of nurses in the state or the need for this. This is an important asset for us.”