St. John Fisher, Nazareth, Roberts Wesleyan considering change from college to university

[anvplayer video=”5110676″ station=”998131″]

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — St. John Fisher College, Roberts Wesleyan, and Nazareth College are considering changing to St. John Fisher University, Roberts Wesleyan University, and Nazareth University.

In an email to students on March 28, 2022, titled "University Status Discussion," Fisher President Gerard Rooney wrote "As you may be aware, the New York State Board of Regents recently voted to revise its definition of a university. This vote now paves the way for various colleges and institutions across the state to transition from a college to a university–including Fisher."

In a statement to News10NBC today, Nazareth College spokeswoman Julie Long wrote "Nazareth is in discussion about switching from College to University, given the state Regents decision to more broadly define ‘university.’ We’ve surveyed students, faculty, staff, and alumni and are currently considering the feedback and determining what is best for Nazareth."

On January 26, 2022, the New York State Board of Regents officially changed the definition of "university" from the 1969 definition:

"University means a higher educational institution offering a range of registered undergraduate and graduate curricula in the liberal arts and sciences, degrees in two or more professional fields, and doctoral programs in at least three academic fields."

To the 2022 definition:

"University means a higher educational institution offering a range of registered undergraduate and graduate curricula in the liberal arts and sciences, including graduate programs registered in at least three of the following discipline areas: agriculture, biological sciences, business, education, engineering, fine arts, health professions, humanities, physical sciences and social sciences."

Since the definition changed in late January, at least five New York colleges changed to universities including Utica, D’Youville, Daemen, Dominican and St. Joseph’s.

Part of the rationale spelled out in the Board of Regents’ decision said "New York is the only state requiring the creation and operation of doctoral-level programs to be a university. These programs are difficult and expensive to set up and often operate at a deficit, creating additional financial strain on institutions."

It goes on to say mention a very practical concern for smaller colleges in New York — enrollment. The Regent’s decision said, "Increasing competition from institutions chartered in other states recruiting students in New York, nationally and internationally, where the term "college" presents a significant marketing challenge. There are institutions chartered in 3 other states offering fewer or no graduate-level degree programs than colleges in New York, that are marketed in New York as universities."

The Regents also addressed the growing number of online universities that do business in New York State. "Some of these institutions offer fewer graduate-level programs than their New York counterparts that must call themselves colleges because of current regulation," the Regents wrote.

In his email to students, Fisher President Rooney wrote "We have shared information and background about this ongoing discussion at the state level as well as our advocacy efforts in cooperation with the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities at recent Campus Conversations and elsewhere. This topic was also discussed by the Board of Trustees during the Board Retreat last week."

The email detailed four meetings over the course of April.

Mary Crowley just graduated from St. John Fisher College. She choose Fisher because it was a college and to her, that meant a small, tight-knit community.

"So the idea of it becoming a university is a little daunting," Crowley said. "Just because I’m nervous about what could change."