CRANFORD — In an effort to fight the stigma surrounding county and junior colleges, Union County College is changing its name to Union College, effective Friday, July 1.
At a press conference last week, College President Margaret McMenamin called it the “beginning of a new era.”
According to Dr. McMenamin, the name change is reflective of a national trend to eliminate the words “community” and “junior” from two-year college names.
Officials present, including three Union County commissioners, discussed the stigma associated with attendance at two-year schools like Union College, which they say prevents students from considering the school. “People judge us on form as opposed to substance,” Dr. McMenamin said.
Also in attendance at the press conference were several graduates who have gone on from Union College to attend four-year schools, including Columbia, Cornell, MIT and Princeton. Additionally, officials touted the college’s semi-finalist status for the Aspen Prize, an award given to community colleges across the country for outstanding achievement.
“What we are is a doorway to the great universities of the world,” Board President Victor Richel said.
The college also hopes that the name change will encourage adult learners to return to college.
County Commissioner Angela Garretson said, “it’s not about getting older, but getting wiser.”
Commission Chair Rebecca Williams and Commissioner Alexander Mirabella also affirmed their support for both the college and the name change.
This is not the first name change for the school. It was the state’s first community college, founded in 1933 as Union County Junior College, and became Union County College in the 1980s after its merger with the Union County Technical Institute.