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Nevada State College wants to become a university

Nevada State College in Henderson wants to become a university.

The school will bring a name change request to the Board of Regents during a Sept. 9 meeting at Great Basin College in Elko. The meeting also will be streamed live online.

If approved, the change would take effect in July. College officials say it would help attract more students, eliminate confusion that exists among employers and ensure equity for graduates.

“The proposed renaming is designed to accurately reflect what our institution does; it is not a change in mission,” Nevada State President DeRionne Pollard said in a news release. “We are also not seeking a change in our funding. Nevada State will remain committed to its mission to provide broad access to diverse, first-generation, and transfer students.”

Nevada State opened in 2002 and is one of the fastest-growing four-year higher education institutions in the country. The name change request coincides with the college’s 20th anniversary.

“We’re no longer an experiment,” Pollard told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Tuesday.

Fall semester began Aug. 22, and current enrollment numbers aren’t yet available. But in fall 2021, 7,218 students were enrolled — up significantly from 4,915 students in fall 2018, according to data provided by the college.

The college offers mostly bachelor’s degrees but also has a master’s program in speech-language pathology.

Pollard, who joined Nevada State in August 2021, said the conversation about becoming a university started a couple of years ago with her predecessor.

The school was receiving inquiries from students and employees about the idea of a name change, and there are challenges differentiating Nevada State from other schools in the “higher education marketplace,” she said.

Some people, for example, confuse Nevada State with the College of Southern Nevada, a two-year community college.

Nevada State officials also heard from alumni about the challenges they faced when they were applying for graduate schools or seeking employment.

Pollard said she heard from a nursing graduate who was spending a lot of time explaining to potential employers that Nevada State is a four-year school and that she had a bachelor’s degree — not an associate degree.

The “college” name also has created confusion for international students, who tend to associate it with a high school-level education, according to online Board of Regents meeting materials.

A name change matters because of economic competitiveness and equity, Pollard said.

Data shows a $1,500 increase in annual salary as a result of an alum’s school name converting from “college” to “university,” according to online meeting materials.

Students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree should have the “name currency” to help them and their families be successful, Pollard said.

The name change also would support the state’s goal of economic development, she said, noting that she believes Nevada State could be part of the solution.

If approved, the costs associated with the name change would be “fairly minimal,” Pollard said.

More than 7,400 alumni would be issued a new transcript and diploma with the new school name — a cost that would be covered through private dollars, she said.

Within the state’s higher education system, college and university renaming isn’t anything new. Six of eight schools have changed their names at least once.

Across the western U.S., about 95 percent of four-year schools already use “university” in their names. And nationwide, 122 colleges changed their names to “university” from 2001 to 2016, according to online meeting materials.

Nevada State’s name change proposal has garnered support from the Henderson City Council — which passed a resolution Aug. 23 — and from presidents at UNLV, College of Southern Nevada and Desert Research Institute, according to the news release.

A website has been created, theuniversityforall.com, where people can pledge their support for the name change, Pollard said.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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