James Lentini, president of the retitled, Molloy University, talks with...

James Lentini, president of the retitled, Molloy University, talks with students Wednesday about the school's new logo after its name change from Molloy College.

Credit: Alejandra Villa Loarca

Molloy College is becoming Molloy University as it seeks an expanded student pool and growth in programs such as nursing and medical technology, officials said Wednesday.

The New York State Board of Regents granted Molloy the new title this month in part because it now has enough academic programs and graduate degrees to qualify, said James Lentini, the university's president.

The Catholic school, founded by the Dominican Sisters of Amityville in 1955, has grown from an initial graduating class of 31 women to graduating classes of at least 1,100 of any gender. The college’s total enrollment is about 4,800, including undergraduate and graduate, with women making up 75% of students.

Officials see the name change as a defining moment for the Rockville Centre-based school as it moves into a new phase — from a local college to a regional university.

“This is a seminal moment in our history,” said Lentini, a Detroit native who took over Molloy in 2020. “You only get to do it once in your life.”

Molloy met the requirements to be named a university in 2018 when it created four schools within the college in areas including nursing, business, the arts and education.

But New York State had antiquated language that made making the name change difficult, Lentini said. The New York State Board of Regents changed the language in January, simplifying the switch, he said.

“We were already a university. We just couldn’t call ourselves that,” Lentini said. “We were being hampered by not calling ourselves what we should be called."

“Universities are typically thought of as more robust than college. It’s a perception that is real,” he added.

Molloy attracts almost all its students from Long Island and Queens, with a handful from around the country who study in a noted musical theater program based partly in Manhattan.

Some 75% of its students hail from Nassau County, 15% from Suffolk County and about 10% from Queens, Lentini said. Molloy envisions the name change helping to attract students from New Jersey and Connecticut as well.

Officials also believe it will help with fundraising, as the university designation carries more heft.

“It’s a major university,” said Edward Thompson, Molloy’s vice president for advancement. “But we were known as that nice Catholic nursing school.”

Molloy now offers 23 masters programs, three doctoral programs and more than 50 undergraduate programs.

Once entirely a commuter school, it started establishing dorms a decade ago and now has 380 beds.

A satellite campus located at Republic Airport in Farmingdale that hosts nursing and other programs is moving to a larger site nearby on Route 110.

Like most colleges, Molloy's enrollment has been hit by the pandemic and a general decline in the high school and college-age population, officials said. They calculated that Molloy’s enrollment, which hit record levels in recent years, fell by 4% to 5% during the pandemic.

That was not as steep as many other colleges, school officials said, and they are expecting a rebound as the pandemic eases.

Molloy is holding off on implementing the name change with new signs and the like until after the next class holds commencement ceremonies in May, giving it the chance to be the final graduating class of Molloy College.

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