Higher education institutions must invest more money and thought in their website designs and application processes. Undergraduate and graduate applicants seeking admissions to colleges and universities deserve better than having their access to higher learning stymied by ineffective and cumbersome websites and application processes. While some higher education institutions like the University of Wisconsin-Madison and The Johns Hopkins University feature sophisticated and user-friendly websites, and their leaders have instituted efficient, unencumbered application processes, college applicants may encounter inept websites and application processes when applying at many other institutions. Middle Georgia State University is one such institution that can bewilder applicants with its inadequate website and unwieldy application processes.
Middle Georgia State University, formerly Macon State College, is a public university in Macon, Georgia. This institution, tied for 14th on a list of institutions in the “Top Public Schools – Regional Colleges South” category of U.S. News and World Report’s 2021 higher education rankings, does not even host its own applications for admissions on its website. Yes, you read that correctly. When one tries to apply for undergraduate or graduate admissions at Middle Georgia State University, the university sends him or her to another website to complete an application.
The website is one where several other institutions in the University System of Georgia direct their applicants to apply. In investigating this issue, I spoke to an admissions representative at Middle Georgia State University, and he communicated to me the fact several University System of Georgia institutions use this same website attests to its legitimacy and effectiveness.
He overlooks how his institution and the others he references are leaving the most significant part of the application process—the actual submitting of an application for admissions—to a website in which his institution and the others have no control over. Why would any institution want to outsource the most important part of the application process to another website that is not managed by anyone associated with the institution? This defies the logic of higher education’s aim: to provide higher learning. To offer authentic higher learning, a higher education institution must ground itself in logic.
Logic seems to defeat Middle Georgia State University’s executive administrators, however.
As one with advanced degree training in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis (ELPA) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, consistently ranked by U.S. News and World Report and the leading college and university academic ranking agencies as the top department in Education Administration/Educational Leadership, I know best practices in higher education admissions do not support this application process Middle Georgia State University employs. When colleges and universities send applicants to websites they do not host to apply for admissions, they send unintended messages.
One of these unintended messages is they do not value the admissions process. To unintentionally convey the admissions process is not valued is a tragic flaw. The applicant’s formal introduction to a higher education institution is its admissions process, which is conducted primarily through a website, hopefully, as I have argued, through its own website. Outsourcing one’s admissions process, as Middle Georgia State University does, therefore, communicates that other vital operations may be outsourced, including instruction.
As someone who co-founded a national education organization, The Why You Initiative, Inc., that aims to eliminate barriers to access and success in higher education for historically underrepresented groups, I understand how needlessly cumbersome admissions processes can engender inadvertent impediments to college access for many applicants, especially for underrepresented groups in higher education. If higher education institutions are truly committed to diversity, as almost none will candidly claim they are not, then they must redesign their websites and admissions processes to ensure applying for admissions does not confuse and frustrate minority applicants to the point they succumb to confusion and frustration, delaying their aspirations for higher learning or, even worse, ending their dreams of earning degrees.
Future empirical research and investigative journalism need to uncover the specific ways in which barriers in websites and application processes affect undergraduate and graduate applicants’ self-efficacy. Many racial and ethnic minorities already face impossible conditions, and those conditions are exacerbated when higher education institutions expose applicants to websites and application processes rooted in ignorance. Also, we must learn the extent to which these problematic websites and application processes deter racial and ethnic minority applicants from applying to higher education institutions.
Understand this, investigative research and journalism does not constitute a personal, salacious, malicious attack. This essential research and journalism empower “everyday people,” to borrow from funk artist Sly Stone, to learn truths the powerful attempt to conceal from them. Although powerful people are fallible, exhibiting frailties like everyone else, unveiling their incompetence in stewarding taxpayers’ precious dollars and resources is a serious matter of protecting the public trust.
The public does not expect perfection from colleges and universities; however, the public expects them to evince basic competency on fundamental aspects of their operations. Their websites and application processes should not appear as mysterious mazes for applicants. Higher learning institutions must reflect higher learning. That’s not too much to ask; in fact, the public demands it. Give the public what it demands.
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