Which of these colleges sounds more prestigious, based just on its name, not on anything else you might know about it?
New York University, or the University of Massachusetts Amherst?
How about Indiana University, versus "the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign?
Some faculty and lots of students and alumni at colleges that have a geographical marker tacked onto their traditional names don't like it one bit. Yes, the anchor campus at the University of Illinois does sprawl across the cities of Urbana and Champaign, they admit. But why say so? It makes a great university seem like a minor branch campus or a commuter school.
Over in Kansas, there's a school called the University of Kansas-Edwards. But that's a secondary, satellite campus. The main campus has no town stuck onto the end of its name. It always has been, and proudly remains, simply The University of Kansas. If you want to know what town it's in, you can look it up.
As the Boston Globe newspaper points out, Pennsylvania State University has 24 campuses, but no one slaps University Park onto the hub campus that's famous for its legendary sports teams. Penn State is Penn State, period, not Penn State-University Park.
The newspaper notes that students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst want to dump the Amherst and get their old name back to better show off the big state university's academic and research reputation.
And students elsewhere are rising up against cobbled names like The University of Texas at Austin that don't trip off the tongue and don't work very well on T-shirts or football uniforms. In fact, a name like U.T.-Austin heaps more glory on the town than the university.
Private colleges are no doubt bemused by all this fuss. It goes without saying that we're not likely to see a name like Harvard-Cambridge or Yale-New Haven any time soon.