What’s in a Name? An Enrollment Increase, When a College Becomes a University

The Chronicle of Higher Education
By Abbi Ross
March 22, 2022

In a 15-year period starting in 2001, more than 120 four-year colleges made a small but significant switch: They dropped “college” from their name, and added “university.” And in many cases, that change has paid off, according to a paper published online Tuesday by the journal Economics of Education Review.

Riley K. Acton, an assistant professor of economics at Miami University of Ohio, set out to understand the significance that changing the name of an institution can have, and found that many colleges saw a near-immediate bump in enrollment when they transitioned to “university.”

According to Acton’s paper, the number of first-time students increases by an average of 5.2 percent in the first five years following the name change, and by 7.2 percent six or more years after. The total number of undergraduate full-time-equivalent students also increases, by 3.1 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively, in the same time frames.

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