November 9, 2007
Posted by Sam Jackson
College websites were rated worse this year than the last--I'm not surprised that this is the ninth straight year of decline, and you shouldn't be either.
TargetX is generally pretty spot-on with their weekly e-mail minute (though not always) and a few weeks ago they wrote about a survey of 100,000+ college-bound students polled by the National Research Center for College & University Admissions. I don't know much about the NRCCUA and I know little about the methodology or criteria of this survey because I don't care to pay $1000 to find out. Point notwithstanding, their 'enrollment power index' purports to show approval ratings of college websites dropping year over year.
How ugly were the results? "Only 140 A’s, along with 713 B’s, 1,369 C’s, 635 D’s and 230 F’s. No sites scored in the 90’s or 80’s on the 100-point scale, only 16 scored in the 70’s, and nearly one third of the schools earned scores in the 50’s or 60’s." Still, minimalism aside, it's a bizarre methodology which has Lawrence University's website as the #1 website. It's not bad, it's just... not great.
As I see it this is because of two things:
- Continual failure of college websites to meet basic needs, and
- The increased scope of demands made by students as consumers of this web content.
For the first, let me relate a story that I told at the college board forum and have repeated elsewhere: when I was filling out applications and getting teacher recommendation envelopes together, it took me essentially an entire weekend to find the addresses of ten school admissions offices because of inconsistencies across sites and with the common app listings. Unacceptable! For the second point--things like "the ability to apply online" should be givens, really, in 2007. From carbon footprints to student stress to student outreach, anything less is untenable.
College websites have to serve a lot of different audiences in very distinct ways, but so many need not fail the grade as much as they do. Hopefully we'll see some more positive developments, though I have to ask--please don't model them off Lawrence University! Let's try for something a little more innovative.