Introducing, Pennsylvania Western University.
It’s the new name for the three consolidated state-owned universities included in the western portion of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education redesign.
The Board of Governors unanimously approved the merger in July, hoping consolidation will address years of sagging enrollment and rising tuition. And on Thursday, the State System unveiled the new identity for one of the consolidated campuses.
Bloomsburg, Mansfield, and Lock Haven universities will see consolidation in the northeast; however, the State System hasn’t decided what to call them.
“It speaks of the hardy region we all serve. It is a strong state name,” Clarion University President Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson said Thursday after the unveiling.
She added: “It is a state university, and that is what we are.”
Middle States Commission on Higher Education, which accredits universities and colleges, Pennsylvania Western University, or PennWest for short, will represent the three schools. But each university will maintain its original name on campus — Pennsylvania Western University – Clarion, Pennsylvania Western University – California, and Pennsylvania Western University – Edinboro.
The State System has “no major plans” to change campus signage due to costs, Pehrsson said.
“Naming has been a thoughtful and data-driven process,” Pehrsson said, adding that student, alumni, faculty, staff, and trustee input went in to make a final decision. “We looked at historical names and competitors’ names to make sure our new name would be distinctive, easy to remember, and not be a conflict.”
Students and alumni won’t have to say goodbye to the Edinboro Fighting Scots, Cal U Vulcans, or the Clarion Golden Eagles. The design team, Pehrsson said, blended each logo into the new marketing. Student voting on updated merchandise will begin in the coming weeks.
With a phased implementation process, consolidation will begin in the fiscal year 2022-23. Campuses will have one president and a leadership team.
Since students will be attending classes across each campus, online learning and hybrid instruction models are likely, also resulting in layoffs. It’s also unclear how consolidation will affect the campuses’ athletic programs and student organizations.
The State System is still waiting on a final decision from the National Collegiate Athletic Association on whether the regional campuses will keep the full complement of their Division II athletic programs, which contribute to enrollment across the 14-university system.
However, Bloomsburg University Bashar Hanna said the State System has been in “constant communication” with the NCAA since the redesign process began to answer questions about how the merger will affect each campus.
Earlier this year, State System Chancellor Daniel Greenstein said there is no definitive timeline for a decision on athletic programs, but estimated the NCAA will decide in conjunction with the Middle States Commission. According to a statement from the commission, that process can take up to a year.
Based on preliminary plans, an athletic director will oversee sports programs on each of the consolidated campuses, Hanna said, adding that he’s “optimistic” that all six campuses will retain their programs.
“This is a very exciting moment,” board Chairperson Cindy Shapira said. “We now sort of start to see things actually happening. It’s really, really exciting and a great day for the system.”
Marley Parish is a reporter for the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared.