Western New England “University”

On July 1 Western New England College, a small private college in Springfield, Massachusetts, will begin to call itself Western New England University. But no one seems to know why this change is necessary.

According to an Associated Press article in the Boston Herald:

The change in status for the Springfield school was approved by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education and will take effect on July 1.

School officials say the transition to a university will add prestige and help attract more foreign students.

This is because in most countries, “university” means higher education and “college” means high school.

But this is not true in the United States, where “college” suggests the liberal arts and “university” implies graduate programs. This is true despite the fact that many American colleges have graduate programs and several universities only issue bachelor’s degrees.

According to the college (or something):

“We want [students] to be excited about this new chapter in the institution’s rich history,” says Barbara A. Campanella, Vice President for Marketing and External Affairs. “Becoming Western New England University will signal to the world the depth and breadth of our academic offerings and increase the value of the diplomas of both existing and future alumni.”

Why, exactly, students should get “excited” about this change is a little unclear. This word change is a common tactic of schools looking to improve their reputation, but WNE doesn’t explain why being a university is better than being a college.

Only 26 miles away, for instance, Amherst seems perfectly happy to continue being a mere college.

In 1919 Boston’s Northeastern College created an off-site evening division, which met in rooms in Springfield.

Northeastern became Northeastern University in 1922. Western New England became a separate college in 1951.

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer