Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


College of Education

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Barbara L. Nicholson

Second Advisor

Powell E. Toth

Third Advisor

H. Keith Spears


During the years 1996 to 2005, West Virginia produced the greatest proportion (56.25%) of regionally accredited institutional rebrandings. In addition, the state experienced the greatest proportion (25%) of the specific “college-to-university” rebranding strategy than any other state. This study set out to discover the reasons why West Virginia produced such a high percentage of “college-to-university” changes. Using a mixed method approach of analysis, the researcher used quantitative and qualitative methods to determine the rationale, strategies, and implications of the college-to-university change. As West Virginia was viewed as a nested population in Appalachia, a population of 51 institutions that experienced the college-to-university change located in 10 states containing Appalachian counties was generated. Administrators from these schools were surveyed and the returns provided a basis for interviews of West Virginia administrators. Additionally, 103 institutions in the United States that rebranded as universities were analyzed in regard to effects of the rebranding five years following the change. The variables studied included the following: enrollment, tuition, Carnegie Classifications, the numbers and types of graduate programs, and undergraduate selectivity. The study focused on the rebrandings at the following West Virginia institutions: The University of Charleston (1979), Salem Teikyo University (1989), Wheeling Jesuit University (1996), West Virginia University Institute of Technology (1996), Mountain State University (2001), Concord University (2004), Fairmont State University (2004), Shepherd University (2004), West Virginia State University (2004), Ohio Valley University (2005), and the planned changes at West Liberty State College. This dissertation features information concerning the rationale for change, how the change was realized, the relationship of the change to regulatory bodies, reactions by stakeholders to the change, the effect of the change on enrollment, the implications of institutional prestige, and administrative advice regarding the change. In addition, a case study on retaining an institutional brand was conducted of the “Allegheny” higher education brand and its usage among institutions in Appalachia was included. This case study examined how Allegheny College has protected its brand and gained brand dominance in the wake of the rebranding efforts of other institutions. To understand the rebranding phenomenon, a total of 22 individuals were interviewed, 34 administrators returned surveys, and an additional 48 individuals provided information specific responses. A total of 102 unduplicated respondents participated in this study and these included: past and present university administrators, institutional staff, researchers, governmental representatives, alumni, accreditation liaisons, and educational consortia staff.


Education, Higher - West Virginia


Universities and colleges - West Virginia