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Frequently Asked Questions: Becoming Clarke University

What is a university?
There is no authoritative definition of a university in this country and diverse institutions claim the title including two-year institutions, for-profit schools, state schools and elites such as Harvard. While a few states have approval processes for seeking university status, Iowa and the surrounding states do not. Clarke’s accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission, does not have a definition and does not require an approval process. Commonly, but not always, universities feature the presence of graduate education and a multi-unit structure. Over 200 smaller private and public colleges have changed from college to university in the last decade. 

Why did we become Clarke University?
Over the past decade or more, Clarke has made strategic decisions to expand its array of academic programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. While remaining very committed to teaching traditional undergraduate students, Clarke now attracts a student body that evidences the diverse nature of a university with significant populations of traditional undergraduate, adult undergraduate and graduate students. Undergraduate programs at the college include an expanded array of professional programs, as well as those in the traditional liberal arts and sciences. In addition to the accelerated bachelor of arts and bachelor of sciences programs it has offered for more than two decades, the TimeSaver Program now provides working adults with applied associate degrees the opportunity to pursue bachelor of applied studies degrees. 

Clarke’s graduate programs also strongly align with the university designation. The college currently has four graduate programs with master’s degrees in nursing, business and education, as well as a doctoral program in physical therapy. A new doctor of nursing practice degree program is currently in the planning stages with an accreditation visit anticipated in 2010.

How does this change benefit Clarke?
The university name more adequately describes the institution Clarke is and the breadth of academic programs offered to students across the spectrum of adult learning. The undergraduate academic program goes beyond a broad array of arts and sciences degrees to include an increasing number of professional programs. Graduate programs include master’s degrees in business, education, and nursing and a doctoral degree in physical therapy. Adult and graduate programs currently account for one-third of Clarke’s enrollment and are strategic growth areas for the college in the future. 

The change also strengthens Clarke’s brand among various audiences. Research indicates that students at all levels prefer “university” over “college” and that it equals a perception of higher quality – a characteristic that combines well with Clarke’s tradition for academic rigor. In most cases, international students equate the term university with secondary education and graduate students associate the term with undergraduate institutions. Traditional students associate “university” with more things to do and higher quality.

From a competitive standpoint, many of Clarke’s competitors are universities and this change helps Clarke distinguish itself from two-year community and technical colleges, which increasingly drop community and technical from their names.

Wasn't this change expensive and time consuming?
While this change has required a commitment of time and resources, the budgetary impact has been quite reasonable. Legal costs were minimal and the change for both the IRS and our accrediting agency required only a letter of notification. Because of the cyclical nature of higher education, materials are traditionally reprinted on an annual schedule, allowing most items to be updated with the university moniker in their normal production schedule. The university had already planned to redesign the institutional logo, so the cost for its development was anticipated independent of the name change.  One time costs for the change included updates to campus signage and the main floor in the Kehl Center.

I graduated from Clarke. What do I put on my resume?
You have a number of options for listing Clarke on your resume. You can continue to simply list Clarke College, you can list Clarke University, or you can list Clarke University (formerly Clarke College). All are considered acceptable.

What is the history of Clarke’s name changes?
Throughout its history, Clarke has changed names for a variety of strategic reasons. The institution was founded in 1843 as St. Mary’s Female Academy, later becoming St. Joseph’s Female Academy on the Prairie, Academy of the Sacred Heart, St. Joseph Academy and Mount St. Joseph Academy. In 1901, the institution became Mount St. Joseph College and in 1928, was named Clarke University in honor of foundress Mary Frances Clarke.

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