On-Line And Loving It: New Students, Research Dollars Lured via Internet. Web Pages by a Growing Number of HBCUs
One day, in a land far away, and a future yet to be determined, a prospective college student will be able to push a button and enroll at Hampton University. That day could well be tomorrow.
"We're just two steps away from that now," says Dr. Mary R. Ellis, chair of Hampton's Department of Computer Science. At Hampton's Virginia campus, Ellis's students have done more than simply surf the cyberspace net. Instead, in October 1994, they created a multi-level Web page on the Internet for the university that has increased its visibility in an effort to attract new students. As of press time, since its creation some 7,420 people have looked at Hampton's Web page, says Ellis.
"The students are taking the Web page and giving it voice," says Ellis of the colorful Hampton Web site. "It is an ongoing document and it is student-driven. This is what we train our students to do, and we try to stay on top of the technology."
On the Hampton Web is information on admissions, courses, the school's history, quality of life and other areas of interest. Hampton chose to go it alone in its attempt to attract new students rather than rely on other college search services that offer to connect institutions with hard-to-come-by prospective students. Its student-generated program is now part of the university's recruitment package.
Trying to Keep Up
"We are going to get to a point where people can request the information they need and get it quickly," says Dr. Janice L. Nicholson, associate vice president for enrollment management at Washington DC's Howard University, which also has a Web page on the Internet.
"We get Internet messages daily. It's easy, and it's casual. You send information to a Web master and you don't even have to know where to send it or who to send it to."
Getting on the Net also has been cost-effective for Howard because information is easier to change than it would be to produce brand-new catalogues, Nicholson says. "The thing with catalogues is you have to produce a new one every year and often it comes out obsolete...there's no running out of copies of Web pages. If we wanted to advertise, we'd have to select a certain number of newspapers...and we might miss someone. On the Net, you don't miss people."
But cyberspace changes are not happening quickly enough to suit Dr. Roy Beasley, senior staff member for Howard's Information Systems and Service computer center. He credits much of Howard's technological revolution to students, rather than administrators. Last year, students petitioned the university to upgrade his computer center, complaining of a lack of cutting-edge technology.
"When it comes to the admissions process, some [colleges and universities in their use of the Internet] are way out in front.
Unfortunately, Howard is not out in front. It's way behind," says Beasley, who speaks in frustrated tones, and agrees with the student assessment of what he calls the university's poor computerized communications network.
"Students here are asked time and again to fill out new forms and they are used to it," he complains. "Howard has been one of the schools that has not kept up, and it has cost us."
It is believed that about half of the historically Black colleges and universities have joined Howard and Hampton in putting a Web page on the Net.
Dillard University in New Orleans is not yet admissions-accessible on the Internet, but expects to have a Web page "within the next five years," says Darrin Q. Rankin, director of enrollment management and admissions.
"We are not nearly where we would like to be, but the Internet and CollegeView have been very valuable to us," says Rankin,.
"All universities are trying to figure out innovative processes for attracting more students. It's something we've got to do to be able to compete with other colleges. …