GOVERNOR PATRICK SIGNS LEGISLATION RENAMING SIX STATE COLLEGES AS UNIVERSITIES
"Massachusetts is the birthplace of public education and our students lead the nation," said Governor Patrick. "So it is fitting that a state that has always been at the forefront of education now bestows upon these six institutions the well-earned right to be called universities."
"Between the hard work of our educators and students, and our commitment to educational excellence at all levels, Massachusetts leads the nation in academic performance," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. "This legislation recognizes these achievements and rightly elevates our public higher education system."
Proponents of the change have long argued that the added prestige of the university name will help students compete in the job market. Additionally, they predict that the renaming effort will attract non-state funding, such as foundation grants, and create new opportunities for alumni and corporate giving.
"Students in Massachusetts public higher education have access to high quality instruction across a network of 29 campuses," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. "The newly names state universities play a critical role in educating our students and as part of our system of excellence."
"This is a great leap forward," said Charles F. Desmond, Chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education. "It is also a wonderful day for all twenty-nine of our public campuses because the elevation of one segment of our institutions of higher learning reflects the value and excellence of teaching and learning taking place across our system. Massachusetts' public colleges and universities are on the move."
"As I see it, this important action aligns Massachusetts with the practice found in some 45 other states, where four-year and masters' institutions were long ago renamed universities," said Richard M. Freeland, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education. "This action affirms the growing importance of our public campuses at a time of record growth in enrollment. I am delighted by this strong show of legislative support for the achievements of our faculty and students."
The six state universities are Bridgewater State University, Fitchburg State University, Framingham State University, Salem State University, Westfield State University and Worcester State University. The universities are part of a higher education system that also includes three specialized state colleges - Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and Massachusetts Maritime Academy - which serve unique missions and will retain their existing names. Additionally, the public college and university system includes the five campuses of the University of Massachusetts and fifteen community colleges.
"I have long supported Salem State College becoming a University. This name change will expand opportunities to students, and bolster regional economies across the Commonwealth. I applaud all the state college presidents, their alumni and staff for their advocacy on behalf of this positive change. Salem State is well positioned for this move and I am proud to have been part of such a team effort," said Senate Majority Leader Fred Berry.
"This law will allow our state colleges to compete more aggressively with their counterparts across the country; it will keep more of our students here in Massachusetts to take advantage of our world class state university system; and it will increase our state's population, generating additional revenue for the Commonwealth. Time and again we ask our leaders in the public sector to 'think creatively' about how to generate dollars for their institutions, especially given our budget constraints. This is an example of one simple word change that will go a long way towards doing just that," said Representative Peter Koutoujian.
"As a member of the Joint Committee on Higher Education, I recognize the importance that signing this bill into law will have for the Commonwealth's future graduates and educators. By allowing our state colleges to adopt this status, we are opening doors by leveling the field at the institutional level to enhance regional educational opportunity for students, to improve grant eligibility and faculty recruitment and to encourage competitive programming with an eye towards national prominence," said Representative Jennifer Callahan.
"This is a historic day for our colleges," said Frederick Clark, Executive Officer of the Council of Presidents of the Massachusetts State Colleges. "As comprehensive institutions offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in a wide range of disciplines, the State Colleges all meet nationally recognized criteria of being universities. Now the state has recognized us for what we are. We cannot thank Governor Patrick and our supporters in the State Legislature enough."
"Students of the state university system will significantly benefit from this legislation since it levels the playing field with our peers from across the country when we enter the job market, and more accurately reflects who we really are as institutions: teaching universities," said Eric Gregoire, President of the Student Government Association at Fitchburg State College. "On behalf of the students of the state university system, I would like to thank the presidents, the Legislature, the Governor and his Administration for their leadership on this legislation and their continued support of public higher education."
View additional photos from the event here.