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College now university

Nine schools in the state college system will change their status, but only three will keep their current names.

By Jennifer Huberdeau
Reprinted From New England Newspapers

NORTH ADAMS -- As of Wednesday, Massachusetts College of Liberal
Arts will be one of nine state universities -- but don't expect a
name change anytime soon.

"Three of the nine state universities will retain their current names
to reflect the type of different and unique opportunities we provide
our students," MCLA President Mary K. Grant said Monday. "MCLA is
already designated as the state's public liberal arts college. We are
one of 25 such public liberal arts colleges in the country, many of
which retain their own identities but are part of their own state
university systems."

She added, "We're not changing the mission for any of the
institutions. What we're doing is recognizing that over time the
national landscape of higher education has changed. We need to stay
competitive at a national level -- this is an opportunity for us to
take the next step in the maturation of the state college system. At
the same time, this system will allow us to recognize the distinct
set of campuses focused principally on teaching, as opposed to the
work of the University of Massachusetts.

Gov. Deval L. Patrick is expected to sign the legislation creating
the state university system, which will remain separate from the
University of Massachusetts and its five campuses, in a ceremony on
Wednesday at 1 p.m. Once signed, the legislation will take effect in
90 days.

The college, along with Massachusetts College Art and Design and the
Massachusetts Maritime Academy, which each hold special designations
under the state Department of Higher Education, will retain their
names. Meanwhile, the other six campuses, Bridgewater, Salem,
Framingham, Westfield, Fitchburg and Worcester, will all change their
names to reflect the new university system status.

"This move is a point of great pride for the students, faculty, staff
and administration of each of the nine campuses," Katy Abel,
spokeswoman for the Department of Higher Education, said Monday. "As
many are aware, 46 other states use the state university designation.
Massachusetts, in embarking on this name change, is embracing
something that is common practice in most of the rest of the country."

Grant said the designation not only brings the state in line,
nationally, but it makes the colleges more competitive in the field
of higher education.

"The state university system brings us in line with our peer
institutions," she said. "Some of the larger campuses in our
constellation already are organized in the respect that their
campuses have colleges of business and nursing. This helps them
clarify their position, while allowing all of us to grow and
strengthen the system."

While not much will change physically at MCLA, Grant said the move
also improves the funding possibilities for all nine state colleges,
which compete with university systems at the federal and private

"It's an exciting thing. It's about helping Massachusetts to continue
to be a strong, competitive player," she said. "The state university
system is one that's better understood at the federal level."

The move not only elevates the status of the nine state colleges, but
it could bolster student applications and federal grant funding, Abel

"Many people believe grant applications from state universities are
looked on more favorably, especially those considered by private
foundations and [federal] government agencies," she said. "We hope
that proves to be the case. There's also the advantage for our
students who are going into extremely competitive job markets. While
it's a name change, it can be an added boost for our graduates -- the
term university has meaning on a resume."

Abel said the name change won't cost the college anything, except for
a change in stationary.

While MCLA won't reflect the status in its name, Grant said that it
isn't that unusual for a public liberal arts college.

"We're part of the national Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges
(COPLAC), which has many members that are state universities that
don't reflect the status in their name," she said. "Evergreen State
College is part of the state university system in Washington, while
New College is Florida's public liberal arts college and part of its
state university system. St. Mary's College is the equivalent in
Maryland, as is the University of North Carolina at Ashfield. No
matter what the name or designation, we continue to deliver the same
high quality programs and continue to serve our students. This is an
important step for them."

The college has undergone several name changes since its founding in
1894 as North Adams Normal School, with a two-year diploma program
for the preparation of teachers. In 1932, it became State Teachers
College at North Adams and offered a four-year program leading to the
Bachelor of Science degree in education. In 1960, the name changed to
North Adams State College, when the College was authorized to grant
degrees in the liberal arts and professional fields.

Its name was last changed in 1997, when special legislation was
signed by Gov. Paul Cellucci recognizing its unique mission as the
state's only public liberal arts college.