Research released by communications and marketing firm gives more insight into a possible name change during Board of Trustees retreat.
Lipman Hearne, the marketing and communications company for higher education that researched the impacts of a possible name change for Lynchburg College, presented its findings at a recent Board of Trustees Retreat and sparked further conversation among the LC community.
Preliminary findings proved to be sufficient for the Board to further consider a change. The Lipman Hearne research stated that confusion with Liberty University is not an issue with a possible name change. “Lynchburg University” got negative reviews from research among future students and their parents and “The University of Lynchburg” currently has trademark issues with Virginia University of Lynchburg that must be resolved.
The overall thought on what university means to the constituents included “global,” “impersonal” and has “vast resources.” Some words aligned with college were “welcoming” and “personal.”
According to ’15-‘16 FAFSA data, eight of 10 of LC’s competitors are considered universities. With LC’s current academic status, it has “improved its academic profile/rigor and increased expectations of students,” according to the research.
Percentage of positive feelings of names were determined within the prospective student population and their parents. “Lynchburg College” received a 76 percent positive rating, “Lynchburg University” received 78 percent and “The University of Lynchburg” received 80 percent among students. Parents gave each name 69 percent, 68 percent and 73 percent ratings, respectively.
If LC remains a college, it must further develop the brand and ensure “positive qualities of ‘college,’ and “increase prominence of graduate/professional offerings in communications,” according to research. If the name is changed, the school must socialize implications such as cost, campus upgrades, recruitment and brand development, according to research.
Michael Jones, director of college communications and marketing (CCM), said that LC “does not have all of the right reasons” to change the name right now. Alumni have also stated in focus groups that a change is warranted for the “right reasons.”
According to the research, a name change introduces a global platform and accurately describes the institution for what it offers. This includes a need to rebrand the institution and then further develop that brand. Jones said that the next step is to assimilate and discuss the Strategic Planning Committee’s ideas and questions raised by constituents.
“It’s a really thoughtful process on the planning, and the Board will make the decision,” Jones said.
Current thoughts on the process are mixed. First-year Hunter Zimmoch said that a name change would impact perceptions of the institution.
“If the name was changed to Lynchburg University, it would cause for a larger percentage of application intake due to the word university, implying a higher academic standard, thus invoking a more academically-driven college,” Zimmoch said.
Carrie VanBuskirk, ‘15, stated that a name change to university would not accurately reflect the institution.
“I believe the name change […] should not happen. It is not a giant school with a campus that is miles long […] it is a community with hands-on learning and a small-town atmosphere,” VanBuskirk said. “For four years LC was my home, and I will always refer to my home as Lynchburg College.”
CCM will sponsor a town hall meeting on the subject, and there is development of a web conference of the ongoing research available to anyone who wants to learn more. All commentary is welcome on the Strategic Planning Committee’s website forum.