Asbury College to become Asbury University in the spring

Asbury College in Wilmore has outgrown its name, so it will become Asbury University in early March.

The 119-year-old private school, with an enrollment of more than 1,600, will change its name "to better reflect who we are in this century," President Sandra Gray said Wednesday.

Asbury has locations in Wilmore, Nicholasville, and Orlando, Fla., as well as an online program, and it draws many students from other countries, Gray said.

"The term college in many of the Spanish-speaking countries and the African countries means high school or prep school," Gray said. "And because we are a global institution, we do not want to misrepresent who we are."

Traditionally, college is a term applied to part of a university. For example, this year Asbury reorganized into four separate, academic schools: the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Graduate and Professional Studies, the School of Education and the School of Communication Arts.

As colleges grow, they sometimes change their names to reflect that they offer advanced degrees. Asbury offers associate, bachelor's and master's degrees.

The school also wanted to distinguish itself as a liberal arts institution apart from Asbury Theological Seminary, with which it is often confused. The Wilmore seminary was an outgrowth of Asbury College.

Other higher-education institutions in Kentucky have also changed from colleges to universities.

Campbellsville College became Campbellsville University in 1996. Brescia College in Owensboro became Brescia University in 1998. And Bellarmine College in Louisville became Bellarmine University in 2000.

But Gray said the Asbury name change "is not a trendy, me-too decision."

"This was a very strategic decision," she said. "We've investigated it, and we evaluated it very carefully."

Other private schools in Central Kentucky prefer to keep their present identity, at least for now. Spokespeople at Georgetown College, Midway College and Centre College in Danville said Wednesday those schools have no plans to change their names.

This will not be the first name change for Asbury. It originally was called Kentucky Holiness College in 1890. It was renamed to honor Bishop Francis Asbury, a circuit rider who became the first Methodist bishop in the American colonies.