Summary of Research Efforts and General Conclusions
Summary of research efforts and general conclusions
Research with prospective students
Independent research administered by Stamats was conducted with prospective students living in traditional recruitment areas, and 376 students were surveyed over the telephone. This research was completed in July of 2008.
Of those students who participated in the survey, 73 percent were indifferent to titles of “college” or “university," yet 25 percent found the “university” label to be more appealing. Prospective students more closely aligned “university” with variety of majors, opportunities for extracurricular involvement, higher quality education experience, prestige and higher quality of graduates. “College” is more closely aligned with providing personal attention and development of the whole person. In conversations with area guidance counselors, many mentioned similar perceptions existing among prospective students as well as parents.
Research with Internal Audiences
Numerous focus groups were held with faculty, staff and current students. Presentations were also made to department chairs and student leaders.
Overall, there was very little opposition to the change expressed during these discussions. Some had initial negative reactions, but after learning about the current climate in higher education and research findings gathered to that point, the general consensus was to support the change. Student Senate passed a resolution, with a majority vote, to move forward with the change.
Alumni and Donors
Independent research was administered by Eduventures, including a quantitative Web survey of alumni. Responses were received from 782 alumni, for a 10 percent response rate. In addition, one-on-one phone interviews were conducted. Two presentations were made to Alumni Council members, and discussion groups were held with 1846 Society members.
Eduventures asked alumni to prioritize outcomes for Mount Union’s future. Some of the top priorities were to offer strong career and professional development to students, provide a comprehensive experience, offer student access to faculty and one-on-one attention, be viewed as academically challenging and compete effectively for good students.
Alumni recommendations for Mount Union’s top priorities are associated, in their eyes, with both a university and a college, with some of their priorities being slightly weighted toward one or another.
Of those alumni surveyed about the potential change, about half indicated support, about one quarter indicated indifference, and about one quarter indicated mild opposition largely due to misperceptions. Alumni who do not support the change assume that all universities are large and impersonal, and few indicated awareness of small, private, prestigious universities. In addition, many equate college with private and university with public.
When reaching out to Alumni Council members, some initially showed resistance, but after being presented with information on the changing climate of higher education and other research findings, the general consensus was to support the change. In our 1846 Society discussion group, there was no opposition expressed to the change presented.
Research of Other Institutions
Many colleges in the state of Ohio and beyond have made label changes in the past two decades. Some recent ones include Heidelberg University (2009), Muskingum University (2009) and Malone University (2008). Interviews with college and university representatives from six institutions making or investigating a label change were conducted.
Of those institution representatives interviewed, all expressed that a name change should be accompanied by a rebranding initiative. All were prepared for the initial emotional reaction but when presented with the research, most constituents reacted well to the transition. No institution that changed indicated that they had seen any lost dollars in endowment or other support because of the change.
A review of communication indicated that the reasons institutions were making the label change were due to changes in the ways students purchase higher education, perceptions of the labels “college” and “university," increased international opportunities, development of the institution to a more “university”-aligned structure and better ability to recruit students and attract donors. In addition, they noted that, when coupled with a rebranding initiative, the institution is better positioned in the marketplace of higher education and more able to extend its visibility and reputation.
Research from Previously Published Sources
Avenues of research included articles in scholarly refereed journals, reports from Chronicle Research Services and general periodical and website articles.
Overall, previously published research supported the general conclusions of our primary research efforts. These sources also provided great detail on the students of tomorrow, their characteristics and the desire for instant gratification and variety of opportunity.
Currently, and increasingly in the future, students will equate the label “university” with an institution who can best meet these needs.