Most American college websites have ended with â.eduâ since the dawn of the Internet, but in recent years the number of domain name options has exploded.
New extensions such as “.university”, “.college”, “.degree” and “.education” offer an opportunity to modernize the online branding of higher education institutions which, in many cases, have chose their web address in the ’80s and’ 90s. But it’s an opportunity few institutions have seized, said Bob Brock, president of the Educational Marketing Group.
Many institutions are buying these new domain names but not actively using them, Brock said. Colleges buy these addresses simply to protect their brands and prevent third parties from recovering them.
Many education-related domain names can be purchased for less than $ 20 per year, although prices vary widely. The expense and administrative burden can quickly start to add up for institutions as they purchase web addresses, Brock said. The domain name www.stanford.degree was available for around $ 66 per year Tuesday afternoon, while www.yale.mba was offered for $ 30,000.
Which areas should institutions buy or not is a tricky question, said Liz Gross, founder and CEO of Campus Sonar, a company that develops social media strategies for higher education institutions. It is a good idea to take preventative measures to protect your institution’s reputation. âWhen the .sucks domain name came out a few years ago, the easiest way for many brands to manage it was to buy it,â she said.
Even wealthy, elitist institutions that protect their brands very well can sometimes miss opportunities to stop pranksters from co-opting their names – this week Inside higher education purchased www.harvarduniversity.wtf for only $ 5.17 including tax.
While a potential student is unlikely to mistake a “.wtf” website for a real college website, there are many other legitimate sounding names readily available. Inside higher education purchased www.berkeley.mba for $ 19.99. By using free website design templates, it is possible to create something that could pass for authentic in a matter of minutes.
Bill Pearce, director of marketing and associate dean of marketing and communications at the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley, said the school had purchased domain names, but noted, “We have to trace the line somewhere. “
âCopyright laws help clarify what is Berkeley and what is not. We come down hard on any other site offering a Berkeley MBA or other degree, or using the Berkeley Haas logo without permission, âhe said.
Pearce said the school had previously identified fraudulent websites using their branding.
“We are sending an immediate shutdown and will involve our campus legal department if necessary,” he said.
Fraudulent websites can confuse potential students at first, Pearce said. “But any serious candidate would quickly realize that he is not on the Berkeley Haas site.”
âAnytime you muddy the waters with limitless options, you make it harder for users to find the information they’re looking for,â said Pearce, reflecting on new domain names. âQualified educational institutions should limit themselves to the .edu domain to avoid confusion. “
Higher education institutions are not the only ones to be slow to abandon traditional domain names such as .edu, .com or .org. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) opened up the possibility for companies to create their own branded domain names in 2012. Hundreds of companies, including Nike, Target and Netflix, have paid the application fee for $ 185,000 but seemed unsure of what to do with their new domain names. In 2016, ICANN threatened to end its trademark agreements if companies did not use them.
Michael Diamond, academic director of the integrated marketing communications department at the New York University School of Professional Studies, agreed that it made sense for higher education institutions to stick to their established .edu websites and “don’t dilute it. not their brand “.
Diamond says that potential students seriously looking to pursue a four-year study at a traditional institution are unlikely to be duped by a scam website.
âA lot of investment goes into the content and web experience of a college website, a scam site won’t make that investment,â he said.
He is concerned, however, that people who pursue a non-traditional education path will no longer be easily deceived by scam websites. There are many consumer-focused sites that rank college academic offerings. The same level of information does not exist for companies offering non-accredited diplomas and certificates.
Although the .edu domain name carries a lot of weight for consumers, it is not guaranteed that every institution using a .edu website is accredited.
Joseph Crook, certification coordinator for private post-secondary education at the Virginia State Board of Higher Education, has identified several unaccredited institutions using .edu web addresses. Many of these sites are from past schools that appear to be “trying to make someone believe that they are one with an accredited institution, or something more nefarious,” he said.
The University of Northern Virginia, for example, a for-profit institution now based in South Dakota, was stripped of its accreditation by the Accreditation Council of Independent Colleges and Schools in 2008. The university still holds its accreditation. unva.edu web address.
âI am concerned that there are unaccredited institutions that can use the .edu domain name,â said Crook. He said that many prospective students and their parents regard the .edu domain as a “quality benchmark” and don’t realize that there may be unaccredited institutions using it.
Jim Burnett, director of membership at the higher education IT organization Educause, manages the team responsible for approving new .edu web addresses. He explained that prior to 2001, institutions were not required to be accredited to obtain an .edu website.
Under the terms of an agreement reached by the US Department of Commerce and Education, all .edu names existing prior to October 29, 2001 have not been affected by the new eligibility requirements. This “grandfather” process is why some unaccredited companies and institutions continue to retain their .edu addresses, Burnett said.
Some companies, such as the research-sharing platform Academia.edu, have been criticized for using the .edu domain. But the company registered the web address in 1999 – before the current criteria were introduced.
Burck Smith, CEO and founder of StraighterLine, a for-profit company offering low-cost pathways to degrees, said he believes it is important for his company to use a .com web address to make it clear that it is is not a university. Using .org or another domain name associated with education could confuse consumers, he said. âWe didn’t want to be deceptive.