York College will gradually become York University over the next school year, a move its top administrator says reflects the postsecondary school's growth over the last six decades.
President Sam Smith, a 1995 graduate of York College who became the school's 21st president following the retirement of Steven Eckman in 2020, announced the change during his inaugural ceremony on Saturday.
Eckman had led York College since 2009.
"The name change may sound abrupt, but this process began in 1956 and has included a series of steps to get to this point," Smith told the audience of more than 500 people.
York College has grown from being an unaccredited college for Christ-centered education, he said, to an accredited junior college to a four-year school with a growing menu of graduate programs.
"Sixty-five years in the making is anything but abrupt," Smith said.
The change from York College to York University will take place gradually over the next year, as the school updates signage, stationery, business cards and listing in higher education directories.
Smith said seniors graduating in the spring will receive degrees that say York College, but next fall's freshmen class will matriculate at York University.
But aside from the name change, Smith said not much else will change; York University will have the same mission, identity and values as York College.
When the name change becomes official, York University will join a growing number of postsecondary schools in Nebraska that have made similar moves.
Midland Lutheran College became Midland University in 2010 after the private school in Fremont saw an enrollment boost following the closing of Dana College in Blair.
Then-Midland President Ben Sasse, who would go on to win election to the U.S. Senate in 2014, said the change allowed Midland to better market itself to prospective students, and signaled the presence of graduate programs.
In 2016, Doane College in Crete changed its name to Doane University after more than a year and a half of study and work to bring alumni on board with the idea.
York College's change was announced as the school closes in on completing a $15.9 million fundraising campaign.
Roughly 80% of the targeted amount has been pledged so far, Smith said, which will boost student scholarships, renovate residence halls, classroom and offices, and help expand academic offerings and technology.
Richard James, a member of York College's Board of Trustees and a co-chair on the campaign, said the funds raised would "invest in a greater vision for what comes next."
"We want to invest in new generations of students who have dreams and potential, those who will call York home," James said.