Beauty, theological, and distance-learning schools will be among the educational institutions that soon will share online real estate with the likes of Yale and Princeton.
The Commerce Department on Feb. 11 approved the expansion of the “.edu” domain name to allow usage by schools with postsecondary distance-education programs, as well as specialty and training programs such as the Connecticut Institute of Hair Design and the American Film Institute.
Critics complain the expansion will cheapen the internet neighborhood for its present occupantsgenerally four-year institutions and community colleges.
“Somebody who goes six months to a beauty school, I would not consider in the same league as somebody who’s even been two years at a community college,” said Ralph Meyer, a retired administrator at Princeton University. “There’s too much dumbing down already.”
Mike Murphy, director of marketing for Phoenix College in Phoenix, Ariz., said the expansion could confuse prospective students into equating not-for-profit colleges with proprietary training schools.
“They provide a valuable service for students they serve, but we don’t think there’s anything to gain by blurring the two types” of institutions, he said.
For many years, the “.edu” domain name had been restricted to four-year colleges and universities in the United States.
In 2001, a university technology consortium took over management of the suffix and expanded eligibility to Phoenix and other community colleges, which are accredited by the same six regional accreditation agencies as four-year institutions.
The technology consortium, Educause, then recommended further changes to include schools approved by the 28 specialty accreditation organizations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. These include the Distance Education and Training Council, as well as the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council and the American Board of Funeral Service Education.
Some foreign schools such as London Business School and think tanks such as the Brookings Institution got their “.edu” names before restrictions took effect and could keep their names, though they would not be eligible today, even with the latest expansion.
Steve Worona, Educause’s director of policy, said about 95 percent of the responses during a public-commenting period were in support of the change. He said the board considered the objections but felt on balance an expansion was warranted.
About 7,500 “.edu” domain names have been assigned to about 6,000 schools. Educause is now compiling lists of newly eligible institutions, and these should be able to obtain new domain names in mid-April.
Mark Gross, chief executive of the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences, said the expansion should help his member schools gain standing.
“We all do different things, serve different needs of the consumers, but this begins to put all education in the same place, where it belongs,” Gross said.
Michael P. Lambert, executive director of the Distance Education and Training Council, said the change would end discrimination against certain distance-education programs.
“Consider yourself, would you go to a dot-com school when you can go to a dot-edu one?” he said. “We think it’s a wonderful way of leveling the playing field.”
New “.edu” Eligibility
Distance Education and Training Council