University status to benefit undergrads

The decision to turn Mercyhurst College into Mercyhurst University is possibly the best thing to do for Mercyhurst undergraduate students.

“Our goal is to preserve and strengthen the undergraduate program by defining who’s in it,” Mercyhurst College President Dr. Thomas Gamble said.

Under the new system, only four-year undergraduates would remain students of Mercyhurst College, while associate degree students and graduate students will belong to new colleges formed within Mercyhurst University.

The new system better defines the special needs of different student groups. The organization will also allow associate and graduate programs to grow and develop while maintaining the size of the undergraduate program.

“We are not looking to expand the undergraduate program,” Gamble said. He said he thinks that the program is the “right size” to allow for a personal atmosphere and to maintain focus on student-faculty relations.

In addition to developing a more efficient organization of student groups, gaining university status will also improve the international reputation of the Mercyhurst community.

“In the global marketplace, ‘college’ means more like high school,” Gamble said.

With a university degree, students would have an easier time finding employment overseas or establishing international trade connections. Essentially, as Mercyhurst’s reputation improves, Mercyhurst degrees gain more worth in the workplace.

According to Gamble, aside from opportunity cost, there are no downsides. “The more students know about the change, the more they will like it.”

“Your life won’t change. You will come to the same campus and go to the same classes,” Gamble said. “In terms of day-to-day life, there will be no change except choosing between Mercyhurst College or Mercyhurst University sweatshirts at the bookstore.”

Of course, the decision has not yet been made. Gamble and his staff will make a report to the Board of Trustees in April and will make a final recommendation in June, after which the Board will make its final decision.

“Part of that is student and faculty support. If you support (the status change), let it be known,” Gamble said.

If the Board of Trustees decides to seek university status, Mercyhurst College may become Mercyhurst University as soon as the fall term of 2011 or 2012.