Where to Search on a College Website
Generally speaking, college enrollment is dropping across the country. And according to the 2019 Survey of Admissions Leaders by Inside Higher Education, 63% of the colleges in their study did not meet their institutional enrollment goals by the beginning of May. This reality is important for a prospective student to understand because it means that many college admissions teams are under a great deal of pressure to promote their institutions and to recruit students to their schools. I'm not suggesting that these student affairs employees are going to use shady sales tactics or lie to students. But I doubt that many of them are going to go out of their way to let you know that their college is facing impending budget cuts or that several academic majors are going to be suspended due to low enrollments.
A prospective student is not going to learn the full story of where a college is headed by taking a campus tour led by a student ambassador working for the admissions office. (See my previous blog post about how to conduct your own campus visit.) Remember that colleges, like most businesses, create and distribute advertising that puts the school in the best light. You need to do your own more extensive research to determine what's really going on at the school. Fortunately, you don't have to dress in all black and break into the administration building late at night in order to find out what is really going on.
To learn about a college's dirty laundry all you have to do is conduct a web search looking at the communication taking place between the administration and the faculty. These two campus groups are almost always at odds, as a simple Google search reveals. It's also important to understand that faculty members strongly value transparency and open discussion when it comes to detailing the campus climate. Hence, if you are willing to spend a few minutes on the Internet, and know where to look, you can discover some helpful insights about a school that no color brochure is going to mention.
For example, let's say you are considering whether to attend Oregon State University, but you are wondering if tuition will be going up soon or whether any academic programs may be on the chopping block. (I currently work as an instructor at Oregon State University, so I am simply using this school as an example. I'm not a prophet and I'm not aware of any impending doom here.) You should type "Oregon State University Faculty Senate" into your search engine of choice. Or if the faculty are unionized you might want to try the search term, "Oregon State University Faculty Association." Once you find the faculty senate or faculty union web page, look around for posted documents related to current issues of concern at the college. A good place to start would be to read the meeting minutes of recent faculty senate sessions.
When I did this at Oregon State University's faculty senate web page I was able to discover meeting minutes from recent sessions of the faculty senate. Within these minutes I was able to learn that Oregon State University is the only public, 4-year institution of higher education in Oregon that experienced an increase in enrollment in 2018. It wasn't large, but it was a positive change. Moreover, the web page also listed several bachelor degree programs that would be experiencing curriculum changes in the near future. Both of these examples demonstrate that a prospective student can gain some important insights into a college simply by searching for and reading information provided by faculty groups. This is one of those easy, lesser known techniques that every prospective student should be aware of and try out. Happy researching.