The year 2000 may have ended with a sluggish outlook for e-commerce, but this past year was a boon for college and university Web sites, according to a survey released by TMP Worldwide Inc. The TMP Worldwide annual year-end Survey on Admissions Marketing and the Internet Among American Universities for 2000, the fourth that it has conducted, found a 40 percent increase in Web-based applications from prospective students. The TMP Worldwide survey drew its results from 199 colleges and universities across the United States.
“Clearly, the world of higher education has recognized the value of offering prospective students both online and offline venues for communication,” said John Meagle, Vice President Educational Marketing at TMP Worldwide, who oversaw the survey. “I’m quite confident that we’ll see an increased reliance of colleges and universities on the Internet and its evolving technology to broaden the scope of their recruiting outreach and streamline the application process.”
Every institution surveyed maintains a Web site. TMP also found, that nearly half of the college Web sites surveyed are updated daily. This is a significant change from 1999, when a similar proportion (48 percent) updated their sites only weekly. The number of pages offered has also jumped more than threefold – from an average of 71 pages in 1999 to 241 pages in 2000.
The most common features of sites include admissions applications (which jumped from 65 percent in 1999 to 88 percent in 2000), financial aid, the academic calendar, and an overview of the school. Seven in ten university sites also offer course offerings, special events, and a campus map. Thirty-four percent of survey respondents would like to add a virtual tour to their site.
One in ten colleges surveyed currently accept application fees directly through their Web site, more than double the percentage from 1999, and at least 16 percent plan to add this feature. Among advanced features offered by Web sites, Java scripting was most common, appearing in 47 percent of sites. Over a quarter of college Web sites also offer audio and video clips, while chat rooms, at only 12 percent, are still relatively rare.
For colleges and universities seeking to broaden their applicant pool, the Web has been a useful tool. Among those respondents who were able to judge their Web site’s impact in this area, nearly half (48 percent) found that out of state enrollment had increased, up from a third in 1999. Similarly, those schools found that the Web site had enhanced international enrollment, with 38 percent measuring an increase.
While colleges and universities have rapidly increased their dependence on the Web for recruiting prospective students, the majority still relies on traditional means to drive traffic to their sites. Over 75 percent cited the school catalog, business cards, college guides and direct mail as means of promoting their sites, while fewer than one in five placed banner ads on college-related Web sites, and only six percent purchased banner ads on search engines.