Bowie State College's bid to become a university inched closer to reality yesterday when a state Senate committee voted unanimously in favor of a name change for the 3,000-student campus.

In voting to let the college be renamed Bowie State University, members of the Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee heeded the wishes of campus administrators and Prince George's business leaders, who contend that university status would elevate the standing and popularity of the century-old school.

Bowie is the latest in a string of Maryland public colleges that have latched onto the idea of a name change in an attempt to heighten their prestige. Frostburg State University acquired its new name last year, and both houses of the General Assembly have passed bills this year that would let Salisbury State College become a university, too.

Under rules of the State Board for Higher Education, which has final say over name changes, a school may be called a university if it has at least six distinct graduate programs and if three-fifths of its faculty members have so-called "terminal" degrees, in most cases doctorates. Bowie would need one more graduate program to qualify, if the legislature authorizes the board to consider the switch.

The new name for Bowie also is before the House Constitutional and Administration Law Committee, which has not yet voted on the measure.