I discovered an interesting statistic this week while perusing sites for the California higher education system: Only one campus from the California State Univeristy system and one campus from the University of California feature social media links to their Facebook and Twitter pages directly on the homepage.
The two universities leading the way are CSU Fullerton and UC Merced.
Why is it important? Because it shows how disconnected California’s higher education system is from new technology. Especially during a budget crisis — Governor Schwarzenegger cut $2 billion from higher ed in his budget last week — you’d expect to see the systems taking advantage of a recruitment opportunity that costs them absolutely no money.
Students are on the Web, a lot. In fact, the average user spends 21 minutes per visit on Facebook. Think of all the opportunities for transparency and conversation that could arise if all higher education systems were on Facebook.
For example, on CSU Fullterton’s Facebook page, someone is responding to questions with hyperlinks and names of people to contact. It’s a kind of interaction that is open to the public.
Quick question, are they opening spring registration at all? Im from Canada and haven’t heard anything about the cuts until I came here. Thanks.
And the person in charge of CSU Fullerton’s page responded with:
Hi Rob, Please go to CSU’s site, www.calstate.edu to read the article: “Admissions for Winter/Spring 2010 Closed.”
UC Merced’s Facebook page has the same two-way interaction going on. It’s the kind of dialogue students and the university wouldn’t be able to execute in any other medium. (For the record, Cal Poly has a Facebook page too, but there’s only one update and it seems as though it was created by someone outside of university affiliation).
Although I’m still not seeing Twitter used as a means of converstaion, at least some universities — including Cal Poly — have a presence. Cal Poly’s account is currently used as a PR news feed. There are plenty of tweets about Cal Poly to which the university could be responding and retweeting.
At a time like this, imagine if CSU presidents each had Twitter accounts so they could directly take questions from students or parents concerned about the budget. Even just five minutes a day responding to tweets would be enough interaction. Beyond conversation, there is a need for transparency and approachability during a time when the CSU and UC is suffering.
But for now, their hands are probably too wrapped up in solving the budget mess to begin worrying about social media. Kudos to Fullerton and Merced for leading the way.
What are your thoughts? Would you write on Warren Baker’s Facebook wall?