High school students whose mailboxes overflow with college publications each summer and fall soon might find the same onslaught in their virtual mailboxes.
The College Board, administrator of the SAT and the ACT, began selling students’ eMail addresses to colleges and universities this summer for the first time. The nonprofit testing service has sold lists of test-takers’ names and addresses to accredited colleges since the 1970s.
“We’ve only been collecting eMails for two years, and this is the first time we have made that information available to colleges,” said Steve Graff, director of enrollment planning services at the Reston, Va.-based College Board.
“We have about 800,000 studentsout of 2 million test-takersregistering online every year, but each and every student has the option not to have their information released,” said Graff. He explained that students must check a box that reads “yes” when asked if they want their information released to colleges.
Though the College Board expects colleges and universities to begin using eMail to make first contact with prospective students, the organization does not know of any colleges that have done so yet.
“We know of several institutions that use eMail contact once kids have made the initial contact” themselves, Graff said.
Many colleges already use eMail to communicate with their students, but most have yet to take full advantage of virtual marketing. Meanwhile, consulting companies have sprung up to help colleges market themselves online.
“Students don’t want mail, they want eMail,” said Brian Niles, whose Philadelphia-area company, TargetX.com, helps colleges communicate with students through eMail. Schools seeking assistance in setting up and administering eMail systems already have contacted the company.
Contacting prospective students through eMail serves a dual purpose: It’s cheaper and it shows students that the college uses the same technology they do, Niles said.
He has created a student search service that will use the College Board’s eMail list and will cost colleges 6 cents for each message, plus a $150 setup fee.
Notre Dame University has been using eMail to alert prospective students about upcoming chat-room topics on its web site and as follow-ups to mailed correspondence.
“Generally, we use eMail for reminders or encouragement,” said Paul Carney, associate director of undergraduate admissions at Notre Dame.
Notre Dame recently purchased eMail addresses from the College Board and plans to ramp up the level of its eMailed correspondence.
“We will probably use this as a second form of contact, after we send an initial mailing of information to prospectives. We’ll send the eMail out shortly thereafter to remind the students to respond to our mailing. We would not normally send follow-up letters, because they are too expensive, so this is a good way to touch base,” Carney said.
“It would not surprise me if many people use eMail as a first contact, though,” he added.
The College Board is careful to ensure that the information it releases to colleges is used for purely educational purposes.
“Colleges can’t sell the addresses we give them to anyone else, and we specify that the addresses can only be used to bring educational opportunities to students. They can’t, for example, be used to advertise for a summer basketball camp,” said Graff.
Graff added that the College Board only sells student information to colleges, universities, and scholarship agencies. Marketers cannot receive the eMail lists.
Still, the selling of students’ eMail addresses to colleges raises concerns about unwanted eMail solicitation, or spam.
Paul Cramer, director of admissions at Ursinus College, said his institution probably would not be interested in sending high volumes of eMail messages to prospective students. Ursinus, with 1,250 students, is located about 23 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
This year, the school is providing laptop computers to all its students as part of the $29,600 cost of tuition, room, and board.
“We want to let them know that we are wired and that we have these capabilities. At the same time, we don’t want to abuse it by spamming,” Cramer said. The College Board
Notre Dame University