Next step in university status process pending

Two months after Mercyhurst College hosted a review team from the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE), which granted the institution a recommendation of being ready for university status, the college is again left waiting for the next step.

“Right now we are waiting for the Department of Education to place us in the Pennsylvania Bulletin,” said Meghan Corbin, director of marketing and public relations. “Once it is placed in the bulletin, it will have to remain there for 30 days.”

The Pennsylvania Bulletin will have a public announcement of Mercyhurst’s application for university status. During this time, the public can comment or refute the progression of the application.

The final step of the process is the official signature by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett. If Corbett approves, this will be the start of a new to-do list for Mercyhurst.

Prestige, recognition, growth and research are all discussed as Mercyhurst moves toward university status, but all of these things come with a cost.

Business cards, letterheads, signs, banners, carpets, floors, walls, logos and websites all bear the name, ‘Mercyhurst College,’ and with Corbett’s signature, all of these things need to change.

“When a business changes its name, you need to change the signage,” said Corbin. “There is a $500,000 budget allocation from the margin to university transition, which includes signage, advertisements, legal fees and application fees.”

This budget comes from margin allocation. The school sets budgets for the academic year, which includes estimates on revenue and expenses. The school operates to maintain that budget within three percent, meaning that the budget is actually three percent higher than the ideal cost of operation to ensure sufficient funds for that fiscal year.

“Out of that margin, however much it is, we do strategic initiatives, such as this one,” Corbin said.

Historically, according to Corbin, the margin has gone into advertising or the latest marketing campaign, though this year the $500,000 will go toward making university changes around campus and within departments.

Ultimately, the amount of money depends on the fiscal year and how much of the margin is left over.

“This is a once in a lifetime, or institution, opportunity for us to announce that we are now going from a college to a university,” Corbin said.

While there are many things to change, the college has taken steps to ensure that resources aren’t wasted.

“We are going to be as cost conscious as possible,” said Corbin. “We are going to order things as they would normally come up for ordering, and we’ve asked administrators, faculty and staff to consider the fact that we will be moving to university status during the spring, so to only order what is necessary for this year.”

This is important when considering products that need to be replaced annually, such as business cards and letterheads.

“If we receive university status in February, we will not assume the name until more toward graduation,” said Corbin. “We will not then order new materials until the beginning of the financial year, which is June 1.”
The final question still in debate is whether the class of 2012 will graduate from college or a university.

“Up until mid-March, this year’s class could graduate as Mercyhurst University, which would be our first celebration as a university,” Corbin said.

According to Corbin, anything after mid-March could result in wasted resources, which is what they are trying to avoid, even though no matter the status, any graduate can return and get a university diploma if they so choose.

“‘College’ is no longer an accurate term for the wide diversity of Mercyhurst’s academic offerings,” Corbin said.