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Why Elmhurst College is changing its name

Starting in 2020 Elmhurst College will become Elmhurst University. This may seem like a small change, but we think it is setting Elmhurst College up for future success.


When one hears the name college attached to an institution the image of a small college with a limited number of programs comes to mind. The new name more correctly reflects the breadth of programming now available at Elmhurst. But why is this important?

Matthew Scott on Elmhurst College name change

Small liberal arts colleges are currently under severe financial duress. A 2018 report from Moody's finds that colleges are closing at a rate of about 11 per year and there are even more dire predictions. In 2011, Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen predicted that half of the 4,000 or so colleges and universities in the United States will "be bankrupt in 10 to 15 years."


What is the major factor driving these grim predictions? A cheap disruptive technology that has radically changed and/or created an entirely new business model.


Currently, online and hybrid leaning account for nearly half of the classroom hours that colleges and universities are delivering. As that pace continues to gain momentum, there are going to be many institutions that will fail to keep up.

Matthew Scott on private college closure rate

Universities that have invested heavily in online technology as well as course offerings will be the best positioned going forward and hopefully this is where Elmhurst University will point its attention. The first step in that transformation is projecting the image of a global learning institution with a breath of programming. They have taken this first step and now it is time to see if the investment in online learning technologies follows.


A university quickly separates itself from institutions offering two-year programs. The word university acknowledges that the institution is focused on four-year degree programs that also offer graduate studies. Elmhurst currently has around 600-plus graduate students and they are also exploring the idea of introducing a doctoral program. This is much more inline with what a university offers.


The traditional liberal arts college can be thought of as graduate prep school. Students historically attend a liberal arts college in preparation for earning their JD, MBA, etc. This almost always meant graduating and moving on to a larger university setting. Elmhurst is making it clear that you can come and earn your four-year degree and stay for graduate school. This perfectly encompasses the difference between a college and a university. Elmhurst is headed in the right direction and hopefully will not become 1 of those 2,000 college closures being predicted by Clayton Christensen.

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© 2019 by Matthew Scott Elmhurst, IL

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