Moving on Up: Moravian Goes from College to University


Photo courtesy of Mark Harris

On December 14, 2020, Moravian College announced its plan to transition to a university.

Moravian began the process of gaining university status in the fall of 2020 and recently received the Board of Trustees’ vote to approve the name change from Moravian College to Moravian University.  

The College is still waiting on approval from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which would then move the request to the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Moravian expects to receive those approvals this fall. 

Because of the increasing strength of Moravian, it is time for us to claim the prestige that a university title brings to any institution,” President Bryon Grigsby said in a video published in December 2020, discussing the reason for the change in status.

In the last several years, Moravian has grown considerably in the size and strength of its academic programs, he said. The college has bolstered a number of its undergraduate programs and added several new ones on the graduate level, including a Master’s of Fine Arts in Performance Creation, a Master’s in Predictive Analysis,  and a Doctorate in Athletic Training. 

“The growth in graduate programs makes us unlike no other primarily baccalaureate liberal arts institutions,” said Dr. Cynthia Kosso, provost and dean of the faculty. “Our structure is evolving to more closely resemble a university.”

In regard to undergraduate programs, Moravian created a Bachelor of Fine Arts for certain programs in the art department and began offering new minors and certificates in subjects such as anthropology and indigenous studies.

“Moravian has added a number of graduate degrees in recent years,” said Dr. Daniel Jasper, dean of the School of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. “And as a result, we are functioning as a university.”

Moravian’s status may change, but that “wouldn’t cause day-to-day changes that students will notice, ” said Jasper. He did note, however, that Moravian’s additional programs will grow its alumni network, providing more opportunities for both current students and graduates. 

Organizational changes may also result at the faculty and staff level, “but it will take some time to determine what these changes may be,” Jasper said.

In The Comenian’s informal survey of the Moravian community about the change from college to university, the reaction was mixed. 

Many respondents said they are concerned about the financial implications of such a change. While tuition naturally increases every year, students worry that Moravian will use the change in status to justify a hike in tuition. 

Both students and alumni also expressed some worry that the size of the Moravian student body will grow too large, jeopardizing the small, close-knit community feel and small class sizes that have defined the College.

If the name is the only thing that changes, I do not mind,” said history major Abbey Richerson ‘23. “However, if the size of the school [increases] — since universities are typically larger than colleges — I would take issue. I chose this school for the small size.” 

Carolyn Furst, a lawyer located in Allentown, PA and a 1984 alumnae, agrees. “If it positively benefits the College, then I don’t have a problem with it,” she said. “However, I think part of the charm of Moravian is its ‘smallness,’ and the word ‘university’ seems to take something away from that charm.”

In addition to worries about the increased enrollment, some respondents said they are concerned about beloved campus traditions changing or even disappearing completely.

“I think that [the change of status] will ultimately help the College to grow, but I find myself concerned about how well the traditions of the College will transfer to the new name, such as in the alma mater [and] nicknames,” stated Natalie Slayton ’21, a global religions major.

Alumnae Christina Santo ’19 agrees.

“Moravian College has been Moravian College for such a long time that it feels weird and jarring to change it to Moravian University,” she said. “I understand that it will bring more programs (and money) in, but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it.”

Other students are excited about the change.

“I think it’s awesome, even if it will be a little bit of a change,” stated health science major Ermanda Shkreli’23.

Some alumni are not too worried about the change, either.  “I don’t think the name change will have that much of an impact on me since I have [already] graduated,” said Kellen Pisani ‘20. “It is still the same school and campus that I attended.”