Massachusetts legislature accords Salem State university status; University designation will benefit region in numerous ways

CONTACT: Karen Cady

July 28, 2010, Salem, Mass
.--Governor Deval Patrick signed into law today a bill that transforms Salem State College into Salem State University. Salem and eight other Massachusetts state colleges have collectively formed a new Massachusetts state university system.

“Salem State ‘University’ has come of age and we are proud,” said Dr. Patricia Maguire Meservey, Salem State’s president, celebrating the signing of the university status legislation by Governor Patrick this afternoon. “Salem State University is the largest and leading educational institution in this region and a major contributor to the region’s economy. We have fought for years for university status and this victory is exciting and well earned.” 

“Salem State College has long been the economic engine and backbone of the entire North Shore, and has supported local businesses, both profit and nonprofit alike, with a talented work force. This name change is long overdue and Salem State University will now reflect this institution’s true value to our community,” said Representative John Keenan of Salem.

Salem State, with schools of arts and sciences, business, and human services, now offers 29 baccalaureate and 50 graduate programs and enrolls over 10,000 students. Its 45,000-plus alumni are the bedrock of the region’s work force. 

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the many people who have fought so long for this designation,” said Meservey. She specifically cited former Salem State president Nancy Harrington and Senator Fred Berry (bill sponsor) and Representative John Keenan (bill co-sponsor), for their tireless efforts, as well as the entire North Shore legislative delegation and Governor Patrick, who signed the legislation.

“I have long supported Salem State College becoming a university. This name change will expand opportunities to students, and bolster regional economies across the Commonwealth. I applaud all the state college presidents, their alumni and staff for their advocacy on behalf of this positive change. Salem State is well positioned for this move and I am proud to have been part of such a team effort,” said Senate Majority Leader Fred Berry.

“Salem State University is a dynamic, intellectually rich and diverse institution that attracts students from the region, the state, the nation, and from around the world. It is not enough just to operate as a university. The university designation makes Salem State more competitive in terms of attracting faculty and students,” Meservey said. 

"The Massachusetts legislature has taken an important step forward in recognizing the fine work of our nine state colleges by voting to rename them state universities," said Richard Freeland, commissioner of the Department of Higher Education. "As I see it, this action simply aligns Massachusetts with the practice found in 45 other states, where public four-year and master's degree institutions were long ago designated as state universities. This action reaffirms the growing importance of our public higher education institutions. It represents a strong show of legislative support for the achievements of our faculty and students."

Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll expressed great pride in her alma mater’s new designation. “In the eyes of alumni, businesses and citizens of Salem and the North Shore,” she explained, “Salem State became a university long ago when it began working with businesses and communities to address our urgent work force needs. The vote to make it official simply validates what so many of us have known for decades: Salem State University has always been here for us.”

“This feels incredible,” says junior Angel Rodriguez. “To be able to say that I’m a Salem State University student is something very special.” Rodriguez, who also serves as the student trustee on the board of trustees, knows that the new designation bodes well for his future, too. “Salem State,” he says, “is blessed with awesome faculty and administrators, and an improved campus that’s attracting more students to live here. As a university, I think the sky’s the limit for what we can accomplish.”

The establishment of the Massachusetts state university system renames six of the original state colleges – Salem, Bridgewater, Fitchburg, Framingham, Westfield and Worcester – as state universities. Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Massachusetts Maritime Academy will retain their existing names, yet will refer to themselves as universities. With the governor’s signature, and following a mandatory 90-day waiting period, this new Massachusetts state university system officially becomes effective on October 26, 2010. 

Salem State University, established in 1854, is a comprehensive, publicly supported institution of higher learning located approximately 15 miles north of Boston, Massachusetts. The university enrolls over 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students representing 27 states and 65 nations, and is one of the largest state universities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.