A new year, a new "U"

(01-05-2012)

Opinion by Dr. David Svaldi, President, Adams State College

As we enter a new year, it is fitting that the Colorado legislature will soon consider a bill proposing a new name for Adams State College: Adams State University. Over the nine decades since its founding, Adams State has evolved from a "Normal School" through three additional name changes, as the range and quality of our academic offerings expanded. With more than one-quarter of our students now enrolled in graduate-level programs, changing to "University" is a natural progression. The change was approved by our Board of Trustees in August because Adams State is already operating on the level of a university, and our name should reflect that role.

Through it all, the "Adams State" portion of the name has remained stable, to demonstrate our enduring commitment to providing a high quality college education to rural Coloradans, particularly in the San Luis Valley and Southern Colorado. University status will not change Adams State's essential character and values. We will not suddenly (or even gradually) morph into a large, impersonal, expensive institution.

Adams State will continue its mission as a moderately selective institution where access and student success are paramount. A change in our name in and of itself will not necessitate a change in admission standards. Small class size fosters better student-faculty interaction and enhances students' learning experience. University status will strengthen Adams State's crucial work as the state's first federally recognized Hispanic Serving Institution.

With record-breaking enrollment the last three consecutive years, Adams State is nearing capacity in on-campus undergraduate enrollment. More growth is expected in online and distance education programs. The change to "university" will increase Adams State's competitiveness in these important markets, as well as in recruiting undergraduate students in several states where "colleges" offer only two-year degrees.

Tuition and fee rates will continue to revolve around state appropriations-not the name of the institution. Given the current higher education funding situation, tuition will inevitably increase at every state college and university in Colorado. While our 35% increase in enrollment over the last four years has been a boon to our financial situation, it is not enough to offset the 15% decrease in state funding- a loss of $2.3 million, or about $1,700 per student.

The Adams State Trustees and administration are determined to keep tuition and fee increases to a minimum. To offset increases, we implemented significant academic scholarships for both incoming and continuing students. All fees (except the capital construction fee, which supports our campus renewal) have been frozen for the last two years.

According to a recent study, most of Adams State's constituents favor the change to "university." Graduate and undergraduate students, alumni, faculty and staff, and high school counselors all believe the name change is justified and would enhance Adams State's competitiveness.

Once the Colorado 2012 legislative session begins, State Senator Gail Schwartz and House Representative Ed Vigil (Adams State Class of 1986) will introduce a bill proposing the name change. The bill will then be voted on by the entire legislature and, if passed, signed into law by the governor. If approved, the name change would take effect Aug. 7, 2012.

Whatever its name, Adams State will remain true to its values: small classes, instruction by tenured professors who care about their students (at the undergraduate and graduate level), a full liberal arts program of study, many co-curricular activities, a vibrant outdoor program, a great (and newly remodeled) residential campus, and the best value in four-year higher education in Colorado.