With Enrollment Declining, Could A Name Change Help Revive Fort Lewis College?

<p>(Courtesy Flickr user <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/52355157@N00/14465958846/" target="_blank">jmcclkurken</a>)</p>
<p>Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.</p>
Photo: Fort Lewis College (Flickr/CC)
Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.

Fort Lewis College in Durango could become Fort Lewis University if community members decide it will help the school attract more students.

An 11-person committee has started collecting feedback from students, faculty and alumni on whether or not the name should be changed — and if so, to what. That could include scrapping the name "Fort Lewis" altogether.

The state-run college of about 3,000 students has seen steady enrollment decline in recent years, spokesman Mitch Davis said. And even though a name change has been in talks for the last 10 years, he said, now seemed like the right time to put it into action.

Committee member Mark Jastorff said when most people hear the word 'college' they think two-year degrees or community college — a factor that could be hurting Fort Lewis' enrollment.

“Part of our consideration as we amp up our marketing programs is, does ‘university’ help in the marketplace recruiting students?” Jastorff said. “Does it matter? Should we be investing in other things instead of a name?”

And switching from college to university isn’t as complex as some think, Jastorff said. To be considered a university, a school doesn’t have to meet a requirement of graduate programs or enrollment qualifications. Fort Lewis would just need approval from its Board of Trustees and the state legislature.

Surveys sent out this month to Fort Lewis community members aim to gauge feelings about the potential name change, and asked for suggestions on marketing tools the college could be using.

“We know that a name change is not, in and of itself, going to boost enrollment,” he said. “But what it can do is serve as a platform for a delivery of a different message, in support of enrollment, of why you should come study in Durango.”

The committee hopes to make a decision on whether or not to change the name by next spring or summer.