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Is a name change a game change? The impact of college-to-university conversions

Riley Acton

Economics of Education Review, 2022, vol. 88, issue C

Abstract: In the competitive U.S. higher education market, institutions differentiate themselves to attract both students and tuition dollars. One understudied example of this differentiation is the increasing trend of “colleges” becoming “universities” by changing their names. Between 2001 and 2016, 122 four-year colleges—nearly 25% of those called colleges in 2001—made such conversions. Leveraging variation in the timing of these conversions in an event study framework, I show that converting to a university signals an increased focus on graduate education, which leads to an increase in undergraduate enrollment, bachelor’s degree production, and total revenues. I further find that these effects are largest when institutions are the first in their market to convert to a university and can lead to negative spillover effects on non-converting colleges.

Keywords: Higher education; College choice; College names (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: H44 I21 I23 L14 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1016/j.econedurev.2022.102240

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