Over a 15-year period beginning in 2001, more than 120 four-year colleges made a small but important shift: They dropped “college” from their names and added “university.”In many cases, that change has paid off, according to a paper published online by the journal on Tuesday. Educational Economics Review.

Riley K. Acton, assistant professor of economics at Miami University in Ohio, began to understand the importance of changing institution names and found that many universities were transitioning to “universities.”

According to Acton’s paper, the number of first-time students increased by an average of 5.2% in the first five years after the name change and 7.2% after six or more years. The total equivalent of full-time undergraduate students also increased by 3.1% and 5.4%, respectively, over the same time period.

The stipends are also generally larger for colleges that make changes before their neighbors. And Acton’s research suggests that such promotions may disadvantage other institutions in the same region. When peers in the same market become colleges, college admissions, awards, and revenue may decrease.

“When an institution does something that makes them more attractive to students, like calling themselves a university, I think it’s only natural that more students might go to that institution,” Acton said. “But that could mean fewer students going to other institutions.”

The shift from “college” to “university” generally indicates an increased focus on postgraduate education, while universities are often seen as focused on undergraduate study.

“It makes sense … but it’s not a complete dichotomy,” Acton said. In the United States, these terms are used somewhat interchangeably.

For example, she said, in 2016 Boston College enrolled more students than 77 percent of colleges and earned more than 86 percent of graduate degrees. Meanwhile, Finnish University in Michigan enrolls fewer than 94 percent of the university and does not award graduate degrees.

Universities also tend to be smaller institutions, with an average enrolment of 2,520 students compared with 10,145 at universities, the paper said.

Acton said the decision to add “university” to an institution’s name is often a result of its commitment to investing more in programs, especially those offering graduate degrees. It also provides the institution with an opportunity to highlight its academic excellence and standing.

Daemen University in Amherst, N.Y., and Touro University in New York City are among the institutions that have made university-to-university transitions this year.

New York State Assembly member Karen McMahon said in a news conference that Daimen’s new university status will level the playing field for hiring.

“Now with Daemen attaining university status, Daemen can retain and attract more students from around the world, build its reputation, and write a new chapter in its history,” said McMahon, whose region includes the New York State Most

Touro University President Alan Kadish said in a press release that the transition to university status represented his institution’s “commitment to academic excellence and growth through innovative programs and higher education opportunities.”

Acton’s paper, “Are Name Changes a Game Changer? The Impact of College-to-College Switching,” will appear in the June 2022 issue Educational Economics Review.