Roosevelt University, which has campuses in Schaumburg and downtown Chicago, plans to acquire Robert Morris University Illinois for an expansion in what officials say is an effort to create greater opportunities for students.
The proposal needs state, federal and other approvals. Roosevelt's enrollment would jump from roughly 4,200 to at least 6,000 students while creating a new academic unit in Schaumburg as part of the expansion, according to Wednesday's announcement.
Roosevelt President Ali Malekzadeh said the tentative deal would be good for students and employees at both private schools. He said Roosevelt and Robert Morris have complementary programs and inclusive, yet distinct, missions of social justice and equity.
"We're doing this mainly for the students' benefit, because then they will have choices at Roosevelt University to go all the way from associate's (degree) to bachelor's degree to graduate degrees, including a doctorate," Malekzadeh said. "These stackable credentials that everybody's talking about, we will be able to provide that and compete in this market very, very well in that regard."
Mablene Krueger, who would shift from Robert Morris' president to Roosevelt's chief operating officer, is equally bullish about the proposed deal. She said Robert Morris has about 1,800 students.
"Roosevelt has a very strong array of programs, undergraduate and graduate," Krueger said.
Approvals for the tentative acquisition are needed from the U.S. Department of Education, the nonprofit Higher Learning Commission, the Illinois Board of Higher Education and the boards of both schools. Officials said the expanded Roosevelt could launch as soon as spring or early summer.
Plans call for Roosevelt to create the Robert Morris Experiential College at the Albert A. Robin Schaumburg Campus in the Woodfield Mall area. It would be Roosevelt's sixth college -- joining the likes of education, business and pharmacy -- and offer many of Robert Morris' current programs in the beginning.
Malekzadeh said Roosevelt would acquire all of Robert Morris' academic programs. Robert Morris has six Illinois campuses, including in Chicago, Elgin and Waukegan, and an athletic and convocation center in Arlington Heights.
"Yes, we're keeping as many (Robert Morris) academic programs and locations as possible while they're going to be under review in the next few months," Malekzadeh said. "Until now, everything has been hush-hush."
Robert Morris' nursing programs and associate degrees in allied health would complement baccalaureate programs that Roosevelt has in biology, biochemistry, allied health and health science administration, officials said.
Krueger said Robert Morris would bring several extracurricular activities to Roosevelt, such as football, hockey, marching band, bowling and its nationally acclaimed eSports program. Roosevelt sports not found at Robert Morris include golf and tennis.
Roosevelt's proposed takeover of Robert Morris is part of an education trend. One of the most recent examples occurred last month when the independent John Marshall Law School, citing declining enrollment, officially merged with University of Illinois-Chicago.
"I haven't had a lunch or dinner or breakfast with my counterparts in the city without someone mentioning, 'So, are you guys looking at mergers and acquisitions and so forth?'" Malekzadeh said. "So, everybody is talking about it and quietly finding out if anybody else is interested. But you have to find the right fit."
As part of the Building A Stronger Roosevelt initiative, the university wants to improve enrollment, boost revenue and cut expenses as it invests in academic programs.