Houston Baptist University has changed its name as part of an effort to more than double its enrollment over the next decade.
The private university in the southwest part of the city, which is now called Houston Christian University, announced the change Wednesday. The idea behind it, according to university president Robert Sloan, is to make the school more attractive to students and more widely known.
"We need a name that better describes who we are," Sloan said in a video message released by the school. "We need a name that better describes our population, our students, our faculty, our staff, our alumni, our donors, our friends. We are a university that appeals to people all across the Christian denominations, and we want to be clear as to who we are."
The name change and associated growth plan was approved by the school's board of trustees in May, Sloan said, and will be funded through a distribution from the university's endowment. Associate athletic director Russ Reneau said the school is not publicizing how much it is spending on the initiative.
The university's accreditation status will not be affected by the name change, according to information posted on the school's website, and neither will the financial-aid application process for students. The school's core values as a faith-based institution are remaining the same, and in another video released by the school, associate university minister Saleim Kahleh said it will continue to welcome students "of all faiths or no faith at all."
"We are committed to all the things we've always been committed to," Sloan said. "We're committed to Jesus Christ, we're committed to the scriptures, we're committed to the gospel, we're committed to making this experience of this historic university as appealing as possible."
The school was founded in 1960 as Houston Baptist College, at which time its moniker was the Spartans, according to Reneau. The mascot was changed to Huskies in 1966, and the school changed its name to Houston Baptist University in 1973.
The commonly used acronym for the university, HBU, is changing to HCU. The school said on its website, hbu.edu, that is has applied for a new web address and will use the existing URL for the time being.
There also will be gradual uniform changes for Houston Christian University's 17 intercollegiate athletic programs, which compete in NCAA Division I as part of the Western Athletic Conference for men's soccer and the Southland Conference for all other sports. The university is keeping Huskies as its mascot, along with a husky's head for a logo and orange and blue as its primary colors.
Reneau said the sports teams will try to wear uniforms that do not say "HBU" whenever possible, with a plan to phase those out before the 2023-24 academic year. The football team will wear helmets with a husky head decal for the remainder of the season, Reneau said.
"That's something we're going to have to work through," he said. "We'll try to use the Huskies uniforms as much as we can to get through the rest of the academic year."
The university, located at 7502 Fondren Rd. in the Sharpstown area, has an enrollment of about 4,000 students, according to Reneau. Sloan said the goal over the next decade is to increase on-campus enrollment to 4,200 and online student population to 5,800.
"We're excited about what these next 10 years can do for us," he said.