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 Mount considers changing its
designation from college to university

Eric Slagle
Frederick News-Post

(5/2/2004) Mount St. Mary's College and Seminary is considering a change of its designation from college to university. The switch could happen as early as July 1 if the school's board of trustees approves.

Officials say the Mount has outgrown its present designation.

"In the strictest definition of what a college is, we're not there," said spokesman Duffy Ross. "University more accurately reflects who we are today."

Mr. Ross said a university has undergraduate and graduate divisions, and may include master's and doctoral studies.

There are currently about 300 graduate students and 1,400 undergraduate students enrolled at the Mount. The college offers five postgraduate programs at four campuses.

College President Thomas Powell introduced the idea of the designation change in a vision statement he gave the college board of trustees in March.

Under Dr. Powell's plan, college enrollments are targeted to grow to 3,000 total students by the year 2010.

Mr. Ross said the Mount isn't trying to compete with huge universities and doesn't plan to change its teaching philosophy or add a research component.

"We're not going to be College Park," he said. "That's not what this is about. We're not trying to turn this into a large institution with thousands of students. The Mount is not going to lose its reputation as an intimate institution of higher learning."

Mr. Ross said the designation change will set the Mount apart from other colleges with the same or similar names and will unify the institution's college, seminary and National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes under one name.

Mr. Ross said that because the Mount is a private institution, it does not need permission from the Maryland Higher Education Commission to change its designation, and that the Mount's national accreditation agency, Middle States, has no jurisdiction over what the college calls itself.

If trustees approve the change, it could take the college a year to put it fully in place, Mr. Ross said, and cost "a couple of hundred thousand dollars."

Costs associated with the change would be tied to marketing and promotional campaigns, as well as changes to the Mount's physical plant.

The board is expected to vote on the change in June. wide have changed designations

The college has been soliciting input from alumni, faculty, staff and students on the proposed change, and Dr. Powell has had several meetings with the college community, said Mr. Ross.

"We're getting a lot of feedback from our constituents and by and large, it's favorable," said Mr. Ross. If there is resistance, Mr. Ross said his office expects it to come from young alumni and students.

"They get personal. They think, `What will my diploma say? Are you going to replace my diploma?"' Mr. Ross said.

Mount sophomore Maureen Comer said she's in favor of the college changing its designation.

"We should absolutely go for it," Ms. Comer said, noting the Mount possesses the course offerings and professors to call itself a university. "By not doing it, we would be holding ourselves back."

Ms. Comer said she'd heard some students object to the change, but "most hesitations have been kind of uninformed."

A number of colleges nation-wide have changed designations to universities in recent years, including Towson, Salisbury and Frostburg State universities in Maryland.

At Hood College in Frederick, which has graduate course offerings similar to the Mount's, president Ron Volpe said he's resistant to the idea of calling Hood a university.

"We believe we offer a university education in a small college environment," Dr. Volpe said. "We don't believe there is a reason to make that status change."

Dr. Volpe said that small institutions that change to university status can face pitfalls, especially from alumni members, if they do not live up to the expectations of what a university is supposed to be.

"We need to be careful it is not only a name change," said Dr. Volpe. "One may ask, `Where's the beef?'"

Dr. Volpe said he appreciated the Mount's desire to switch to university status given that the institution has diverse offerings, including its seminary program.

Online Masters in Education program can make a school much more appealing