- The University of Southern Maine is considering changing its name to attract more students by connecting itself more directly to Portland, the state's largest city, according to Maine Public Radio.
- Southern Maine President Glenn Cummings said demographic shifts may make recruiting more challenging in the future, and that polling suggests playing up the university's proximity to Portland may help draw students. (The Portland Press Herald reported in August that the University of Maine Portland was so far the top choice for the new name.)
- The change would cost about $750,000, Maine Public Radio reported. It would need approval from the board of trustees and the state legislature, where at least one state senator has been critical of the change.
Location can be a critical part of a college's branding, notes higher ed consulting firm QS Quacquarelli Symonds. Such a feature should be emphasized to draw new students locally and from outside the region, according to Higher Education Marketing.
One common reason for a name change is that an institution has morphed from a college to a university and seeks a new identity to match the academic expansion. Augsburg University, in Minneapolis, and Tusculum University, in Greenville, Tennessee, are just two colleges to do so in recent years, though not all colleges make the change.
Several other institutions have updated their brand and messaging in response to what The New York Times called "a gloomy picture, painted by polls, politics and population shifts." In some cases, that has meant trading out liberal arts degree paths for those with more explicit ties to employer needs. Other colleges are becoming more selective while adding more supports to keep students on the path to graduation, such as proficiency-based learning and stackable credentials. Still more are lowering tuition across the board.
Dartmouth College has consciously moved to refer to itself as just Dartmouth. It announced a larger rebranding campaign at the start of 2018. At that time, it was grappling with a sexual misconduct scandal and weighing a possible campus expansion that drew criticism for potentially taking away the institution's small-college feel.
Other ways a college can strengthen its branding include playing up top academic programs and extracurricular opportunities as well as any student niches it serves, according to QS Quacquarelli Symonds.