If approved, the institution will officially assume the name of Western State Colorado University on Aug. 1.
Western initiated name change discussions last September and its Board of Trustees approved the new name on March 16. The bill, which was co-sponsored by Reps. J. Paul Brown and Roger Wilson and Sen. Gail Schwartz, was introduced to the legislature on March 28.
“It’s an exciting and historic day for Western,” President Jay Helman said. “After extensive, insightful discussions and research, it is gratifying to see this vision come to fruition.”
Western sought the legislative change to university designation to better reflect the institution’s academic offerings as a four-year institution with graduate programs. Such a distinction, Helman noted, is important for attracting students who today associate the term “college” with two-year and vocational institutions.
“Virtually every public, four-year institution of higher education west of the Mississippi River is now a ‘university,” Helman said. “For international students, the word ‘college’ refers to high schools. In order to attract a diverse student population, we need to have a name that they understand as reflective of the breadth of our academic offerings.”
The name change initiative is among a comprehensive strategy undertaken by Western to recruit and retain students. Western also is developing additional academic programs, has established a Center for Executive Development and has implemented a First-Year Experience program for freshmen. Several initiatives also have been identified in the recently drafted Self-Study Report, which is required every 10 years for accreditation.
This will be Western’s third name since its founding in 1901 as Colorado State Normal School. Initially a teacher preparation institution, Western expanded its core mission to become liberal arts college in 1923 and adopted the name Western State College of Colorado. Graduate programs were added soon thereafter and discontinued in 1985 by the state legislature. In 2007, former Colorado Gov. Ritter signed a bill that granted Western authority to re-establish its graduate programs. In 2010, Western started offering a master of arts degree in Education and a master of fine arts degree in Creative Writing.