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Shepherd closer to name change

March 13, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

The West Virginia state Senate on Friday overwhelmingly approved a compromise bill Friday that would allow Shepherd College to change its name to Shepherd University.

The House of Delegates must also adopt the conference committee version of Senate Bill 448, which senators passed 25-9. The state's legislative session is scheduled to end at midnight tonight.

The name Shepherd University would help recruiters attract students who often associate the title of college with institutions only offering two-year degrees, Shepherd College President David L. Dunlop said in a telephone interview Friday night.

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Shepherd College offers four-year undergraduate and graduate degrees and "we don't want to be mistaken for a two-year institution when our recruiters are competing for students," Dunlop said.

"I'm optimistic it will pass," said Dunlop, who believes a signature from the Gov. Bob Wise should come with ease. "We expect (Wise will) sign it because he supported the name change in his State of the State address."

According to Dunlop, a majority of four-year colleges across the nation already have changed their titles from college to university with the exception of some private high profile institutions. He credits state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, with building a strong legislative coalition to move the bill out of committee.

"In the long term, people will look back on this as a significant maturing of the institution," Dunlop said. "In the short term, it's simply a name change."

Under the higher education compromise measure, Concord, Fairmont, and West Virginia State colleges also would be renamed. The schools already have obtained university status under Higher Education Policy Commission guidelines, but cannot change their names without legislative approval.

"This is a great day for these institutions," said Senate Education Chairman Robert H. Plymale, D-Wayne.

Dunlop says the name change comes on the heels of a shrinking pool of West Virginia high school graduates. The demographic changes are forcing the college to work more aggressively in recruiting out-of-state students and the name Shepherd University is easier to market, Dunlop said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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