University status doesn't increase enrollment
June 9, 2009 ·
West Virginia’s colleges just underwent a name change. Shepherd,
Concord, West Virginia State, Fairmont State, and West Liberty all
Dr. James Owston says changing a name from a college to a university adds prestige however.
“Primarily most of the schools changed names from college to
university because they really believed they were a university," Owston
explains, "and they wanted the name to reflect what they already
Owston studied more than 160 higher education institutions
nationwide that erased the word “college” and put “university” after
their names. His conclusions are the basis of his doctoral
dissertation. He says the impetus behind re-branding a school was
to gain prestige and boost enrollment and fundraising.
He looked at what effects the change had on the institutions. Owston
found that going from a college to a university apparently does little
to boost enrollment.
Owston says his research will help other schools that are considering going from a college to a university.
Owston is on the staff of Mountain State University in Beckley, a
school that has undergone two name changes in the past 20 years.