Associated Press
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signs a bill into law transforming Dixie State College into a university inside the school's Eccles Fine Arts Center, in St. George, Utah on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013.

ST. GEORGE — Utah officially has a new university.

On Saturday, Gov. Gary Herbert signed HB61, officially changing Dixie State College to Dixie State University.

"This is just a fabulous day — a seminal day. One that I think would make our ancestors elated," said Dixie State University President Stephen D. Nadauld while paying homage to the pioneers who settled the area more than 150 years ago.

Utah lawmakers sent HB61 to the governor's desk for signing earlier this week. The switch to university status followed years of preparation and, most recently, months of debate over the controversial name change.

Dixie State University becomes the sixth university in the Utah System of Higher Education and the the third open enrollment regional university in Utah along with Weber State University and Utah Valley University.

By having "university" status, Nadauld said it sends a message that a broad number of degrees are offered at the school, that there's a quality faculty working at the school, and a message to potential businesses looking to move to the St. George area that there's a pool of potential quality employees.

"'University' says training, says education, says preparation, says we can supply you with the educated work force your business needs to be successful," he said.

Saturday's signing was at the Dolores Dore’ Eccles Fine Arts Center at DSU before a full house.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam