Colleges Tracking Online Traffic Patterns

College students walking on campus, rear view

Colleges know their financial future is dependent on finding prospective students with the financial ability to pay tuition. Now they’re hunting for those kids online.

At least 24 universities, including TCU in Texas, have hired consultants to help them track who is visiting their websites, which pages they like, and how long they stay. “There are a number of consultant companies now providing services to higher education as well as business trying to help universities understand the traffic patterns,” says David Dillard with KD College Prep.

Whether or not this is another Big Brother intrusion into lives, or a modern way of screening prospective candidates, is being questioned. Dillard sees it as harmless and says what they’re looking for is no different than the data Amazon is collecting. “Identify what the patterns are, who the people are, what their interests are, and what their desires and needs are, and try to spend their resources on the people who are showing real interest.”

The criticism is being focused on the potential bias for students of means, limiting access to higher education for those lower on the rungs of financial security. Dillard says universities are already buying test score results and other sources of insight into potential students, but are now modeling an approach more in line with businesses and says universities are not likely to use this type of data in determining admissions.

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