Frequently Asked Questions About the New Massachusetts State University System

A transformative change such as Salem State receiving university status may leave some members of our immediate and extended communities with questions. What follows are responses to common questions that have been asked since Governor Patrick signed the bill creating a Massachusetts State University system.

How will the name change benefit students?

Graduating from a campus within a state university system, with academic offerings on par with teaching universities across the nation, will help our students compete in the job market or for advanced study on a more equal footing, especially as 45 other states have already moved to state university systems. A state university system more accurately describes the breadth and depth of educational offerings and opportunities available to our students.

What does it mean for alumni?

Alumni feel a renewed sense of pride that their alma mater has been recognized as a university. As the university’s reputation expands, there is an added ‘value’ to their degree. If they choose, alumni will be able to replace their current diplomas with new diplomas reflecting the change in name for six of the state colleges.

How will the name change benefit Salem State?

As a state university, our campus will be better positioned to compete for private foundational and federal government funding, and will help us attract the best faculty from a national pool of candidates.

Are the state universities now part of the UMass system?

The state universities are not part of the UMass system. The state university system and University of Massachusetts serve very different missions. UMass is a research university, focused on research and training of students at the doctoral level. The state universities will remain teaching universities, with faculty who concentrate on teaching, scholarship and service.

Will this give Salem State the ability to offer additional degrees, including doctoral?

New programs are continually added to the university’s offerings as we address the region’s educational and workforce needs. Even prior to the state university law, the state colleges were able to offer doctoral degrees in conjunction with the University of Massachusetts. This new law does not change that opportunity. The School of Graduate Studies will be reviewing proposals as part of our academic planning and will propose programming that builds and expands upon our excellent faculty and quality programs.

Will the name change result in higher admission standards for students?

As a university system we are reaffirming our commitment to academic excellence. Salem State’s rigorous admissions standards, which have been in place for over a decade, will not be impacted by this law. Our mission continues to aim to expand access to a college education for residents of the Commonwealth.

Will the name change increase the size of our student body?

Today, the name “college” or “university” does not tell us much about the size of an educational institution. Nationally, there are many small universities and large colleges. Some Massachusetts State Colleges are already larger than many private universities. The campuses have no plans to expand based on the change to a state university system, and they will continue to serve a regional mission, drawing many of their students from surrounding areas.

Will class size be impacted by the name change?

The Massachusetts state universities currently have an average student: faculty ratio of 15:1. This legislation will not impact in any way the small classes and opportunities to work one-on-one with faculty members, which are hallmarks of a state university education.

Will the name change be expensive?

Salem State has already undertaken the advancements necessary to be a state university. Therefore, there are no significant cost factors required as part of this transition. We will, of course, change signage and stationery, elements that would be replaced in the normal course of business and within existing budgets.

Is financial aid impacted by the name change? Will the name change increase student tuition and fees?

The same forms, procedures and standards for applying for and receiving financial aid will continue to apply. We are committed to maintaining our distinction as the most affordable path to a four-year degree. Salem State’s tuition and fees (fulltime, in-state) are $7,230 per year, among the lowest for four-year programs throughout New England. Student costs will not increase as a result of the change to a state university system.

Will the responsibilities of faculty change? Does it affect faculty member teaching responsibilities?

Our faculty provides high quality educational experiences. The transition to a state university will not alter these responsibilities. The faculty’s work, enhanced by small classes and frequent interactions with students outside of class, will continue as a strength of our institution. This law does not alter the course load, research requirements, advising and other responsibilities, or what faculty are paid.

How will this impact transfer students?

The change will not impact transfer students. The same requirements and standards for transferring credits will apply. Transfer students will not see any increase in costs as a result of the new law.

As state universities, will the schools now jump up to Division I in athletics?

The state universities will continue to compete in sports within their current division level.

What is the impact of the new Massachusetts State University System?

Recently the state legislature passed and Governor Patrick signed a bill creating a Massachusetts State University system [July 28, 2010]. The bill recognizes that the Massachusetts State Colleges already were regional teaching universities in everything but name. As comprehensive institutions offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in a wide range of disciplines, the State Colleges all met nationally recognized criteria of being universities.

As a result of this bill, six comprehensive state colleges will be renamed as Salem State University, Bridgewater State University, Fitchburg State University, Framingham State University, Westfield State University and Worcester State University. Three specialized state colleges–Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Massachusetts Maritime Academy–which serve very unique missions, will retain their existing names but as members of a state university system.

Since today’s state universities were first created in the 1830’s and 1840s, the institutions have adopted name changes to fit their evolving mission–moving from Normal Schools to State Teachers’ Colleges to State Colleges, and now to State Universities. Forty-five other states in the U.S. already have made the transition to state university systems.

We believe strongly that this change will enhance the value of our students’ degrees and help them compete for jobs; help our colleges compete for private and federal grants and attract the best faculty from national pools of candidates; and, benefit our state by keeping more Massachusetts students in state to attend college.

As this is the first major name change since the institutions became state colleges in the 1960s, a number of important questions have been raised. The important point to keep in mind is that the state colleges are not changing their mission or what they provide to students as a result of this name change.