St. Joseph’s College in Clinton Hill becomes St. Joseph’s University with new state designation

man outside st. joseph's college sign
Clinton Hill’s historic St. Joseph’s College is now St. Joseph’s University. The new designation recognizes the size and scope of the school’s educational offerings.
File photo by Natalie Rocha

Brooklyn’s first and only historically women’s college got an upgrade on Tuesday as St. Joseph’s College was officially dubbed St. Joseph’s University.

The New York State Department of Education and the Board of Regents officially granted the century-old Clinton Hill institution “university status,” which the school celebrated as the beginning of the school’s next chapter.

“I’m very excited about this, the name ‘university’ describes what we already are,” said Donald Boomgaarden, the university’s president, in a video announcing the change. “I’m so happy to be able to announce this … and I hope that you share the joy that all of us share in our new name, St. Joseph’s University New York.” 

A college, per the university’s announcement, is usually a local school with a focus on undergraduate studies, whereas a university is a larger, regional institution with undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

With campuses in Brooklyn and Long Island and a wide range of both undergraduate and graduate programs, St. Joseph’s already fit the bill — it just took a while for the name to reflect reality.

st josephs building in brooklyn
Once a small, women’s-only college, St. Joseph’s University is now a thriving liberal arts institution, and say the new name only reflects what the school has already been doing for years. Wikimedia Commons/Beyond My Ken

“While the change of designation will bring many benefits to our community, the academic focus, character, and qualities of St. Joseph’s will be unchanged,” the school said in its announcement. “We will maintain our commitment to the charism of our founding Sisters, and we will ensure that our close-knit community of scholars and staff members will continue to provide our students with the personal attention and encouragement that is the hallmark of a St. Joseph’s education.”

The new moniker will not change tuition or financial aid eligibility for the university’s roughly 4,000 students. St. Joseph’s bills itself as one of the country’s most-affordable private colleges. Yearly tuition for undergraduates is $29,967, according to the school’s website, and 84 percent of students receive some form of financial aid.

“The college has always been open to growth and change, adapting to the times, adapting to the challenges of the times,” said Sister Elizabeth Hill, a former president of St. Joseph’s and a member of the school’s class of 1964. “I see this as just part of that evolutionary process that has been happening since 1916.”

St. Joseph’s has changed its name to keep up with new priorities in the past. The university was founded as St. Joseph’s College for Women by the Sisters of St. Joseph — who also founded the borough’s much-loved Bishop Kearney High School — in 1916. Half a century after it opened its doors, the school dropped “for Women” from its name as it went co-ed.

“I think that the designation of ‘college’ is a very worthy one,” Hill continued. “I went to St. Joseph’s College for Women, as did my mother. And I have always been very proud of being a graduate of the college. But the designation of university, I think, connotes a different level of academic depth, excellence, challenge.”