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Name change from 'college' to 'university' helps recruiting in US

By Hong Xiao in New York | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-13 07:17

What's in a name? A lot, if you had asked Johnson State College and Lyndon State College in the US state of Vermont.

The schools are now one, at least in name - Northern Vermont University - with two campuses 89 kilometers apart.

The name change was designed to attract foreign students willing to pay higher tuition. "University" just sounds better than "college".

NVU will welcome its first freshman class in the fall of 2018.

Across the United States schools have been trying to step up to the surge in foreign students, especially Chinese students. Last year, 328,547 Chinese studied in the US, accounting for 32 percent of all foreign students, according to the Institute of International Education.

But Vermont ranks low - 48th among the country's 50 states. Last year, a paltry 1,712 foreign students studied in Vermont, 39 percent of them Chinese.

Name change from 'college' to 'university' helps recruiting in US

Currently, Lyndon has eight international students, including five from China; Johnson State has two international students, one from the United Kingdom and one from Bermuda.

Last year, the board of trustees of the state college system voted unanimously to unify Johnson and Lyndon State - but keeping each school's campus separate - to save money and increase revenue.

Foreign students brought just $75 million to the state last year, up from $34 million six years ago, according to the education institute.

In explaining the name change, Patricia Coates, director of communications for the Vermont State Colleges System, told China Daily that "college" may have a different perception outside the US. In China, "college" may be seen as equivalent to "high school" or "junior college".

"Frankly, let's be honest, 'university' provides a marketing advantage, and that is a big part of what we hope to leverage from this unification," Coates told news website last year.

Vermont's state college tuition is among the highest in any state, according to the website. The state's smaller public colleges have seen enrollments decline and are more dependent on tuition because of low government funding. Tuition and fees make up 58 percent of their revenue; room and board 17 percent; and state money 16 percent.

At Lyndon in 2015, according to the school's website, there were 1,200 students. In-state tuition was $10,700 and out-of-state tuition was $21,764. International students qualify for the Open Frontiers Scholarship when enrolled in any degree program at Lyndon, and can receive $5,500 a year.

For the academic year 2016-17, Johnson's website lists in-state tuition as $10,244 and out-of-state as $22,680. The tuition for the newly combined NVU hasn't been disclosed yet.

It's not the first time that an institute of higher education in Vermont has changed its name. In July 2015, Castleton State College changed to Castleton University after a unanimous vote from the school's board of trustees.

University President Dave Wolk explained that the reasons for the name change included growth in the number of graduate programs and the student body, as well as Castleton's international recruitment efforts.

The school's website says that in 2015, 40 countries (including China) were represented among its student body of 2,246. Tuition for the academic year 2017-18 is $22,490 for in-state and $38,042 for out-of-state.

Patrick Liu, director of international student enrollments at Castleton, said people in countries outside the US have a different notion of what "college" means.

"Sometimes, people might think the education quality of a university would be higher than a college," said Liu. "So the change of the school's name could avoid misunderstanding and make it easier to explain to students overseas. It's good for the school's promotion and development, especially overseas."

Last year, Lyndon welcomed its first students from Xi'an into its undergraduate degree program. The school has an electronic journalism arts program that collaborates with China's Xi'an University. Each January, students from Xi'an, Shaanxi province, spend a few weeks on campus for hands-on experience in electronic journalism.

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