Wednesday, January 13, 2010

College Search Resources Multiply

Here at U-CAN, we're inveterate watchers of what's happening in Web-based college search tools, and in recent months we've seen an explosion of new sites. Some are really useful. Some, frankly, are nothing more than marketing devices to push the uninformed toward certain institutions.

Just recently we found a nice list of useful Web search tools -- "Top 10 College Websites for Finding Great Schools" -- posted by Lynn O'Shaughnessy on her College Solutions blog. (Thanks to Lynn for including U-CAN in that list.) She's picked up some of the best of the newbies, along with those that have been around for a while.

What sites have you found most useful? Any horror stories about the misleading sites out there?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A New Spin on the U-CAN Blog

The University and College Accountability Network (U-CAN) provides information for prospective students and their parents on American private colleges and universities across a wide variety of characteristics. The goal of U-CAN was to encourage parents and students to sit around the kitchen table and compare schools with easy to read profiles.

The goal of the U-CAN Blog is to continue that conversation. Here, we will post information and stories about college admissions and hopefully get your feedback on the issues facing prospective students today.

If you have got ideas about what you’d like to see in the blog, please send us a note using the comments section.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

For Participating Institution Contacts: U-CAN Update Schedule Survey

We've seen U-CAN grow to nearly 800 participating institutions over the past year and continue to refine the system so that it provides the information that consumers want, and is easy for institutions to use. A crucial factor in U-CAN's success is its comparability of information across institutions.

As many of you know, at the beginning of the project we established a semi-annual update schedule modeled after IPEDS reporting, with one update in the fall and another in late spring. Many of you commented during the fall update that this created some confusion, and that it would be useful to have just one update period per year.

We've been working through the various options, and ask for your input. We invite all U-CAN campus contacts to take a short (2 question) survey to indicate updating preferences. We'll use your input to help determine which type of schedule makes the most sense for the majority of U-CAN users. We ask that you submit your response by Wednesday, May 6.

Please take a moment to complete the survey, which is available online.

To give the choices context, we submit the following rationales:
Semi-Annual Updating
Pro: Data on U-CAN profiles will always be as current and up-to-date as that found on the Department of Education's College Navigator consumer info site and institutional Web sites. Con: Since not all information is updated at once, there has been some confusion over what should be updated, causing some institutions to update information in advance of when all institutions can provide it. This compromises data integrity and comparability, and misleads the public as to what data, from what year, they are looking at on individual profiles.
One Annual Update
Pro: Eliminates confusion associated with only updating certain data elements, and removes issues of data integrity and comparability as described above. Con: U-CAN profile data will not always be as current as that found on College Navigator - a lag time of 3-6 months could exist, depending on schedule.

When Should U-CAN Be Updated
Pro: Financial aid and graduation statistics will be available on U-CAN before or simultaneously with those appearing on College Navigator
Con: Enrollment and other related data on U-CAN will be close to a year old, and will appear approximately 6 months after posting on College Navigator (i.e. Fall enrollment data will be input the following May/June).

Pros and Cons would largely depend on when institutions have their Fall enrollment data available - could be the same as pros and cons for May/June. This would also occur simultaneously with the IPEDS data collection cycle.

Pro: Fall enrollment data and related statistics would be available for input and thus appear on U-CAN in a timely manner.
Con: Financial aid/graduation statistics would appear on U-CAN approximately 3-4 months later than College Navigator, and the collection period would directly overlap with IPEDS. Another con is that tuition/financial information will not be posted until classes begin for a given year.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Improved Version of U-CAN Launched, Participation Continues to Grow

We are pleased to announce the unveiling of U-CAN "2.0" this morning. The site features two major upgrades: a greatly enhanced search function, increasing the number of searchable variables from three to 17; and a new consumer guide to help families plan for college, search for the best college fit, and navigate the financial aid maze.

The launch of U-CAN 2.0 was recently reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed and an item on the launch appears in the Life section of today's USA Today (page 4D, not available on line).

The enhancements featured in U-CAN 2.0 are driven by findings from a series of consumer focus groups conducted by NAICU in late spring 2008, and from feedback gathered from U-CAN site visitors.

This first major upgrade to U-CAN comes nearly a year after the site was originally launched. Over the past 12 months, U-CAN has experienced a 21-percent increase in campus participation, from 600 to 728 institutions. More than 400,000 users have visited the site, viewing more than a million pages.

The site has been lauded as an important step forward in college transparency by some of higher education's most adamant critics, and praised for its consumer-friendly data, design, and its links to campus Web sites.

In the past year, U-CAN has been covered in more than 100 news stories, including articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and many other publications. NAICU is currently conducting a media tour, consisting of one-on-one and small group meetings with journalists from national and trade outlets, to promote U-CAN.

Today, in conjunction with the site re-launch, we will initiate a comprehensive Web marketing plan to drive prospective students and their families to the site. Text ads will be featured on relevant Google keyword search result pages, ads will appear on the Web pages of contextually related news stories, and display ads will target high school students on Facebook. We will follow up with direct mailings to members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling and the Independent Educational Counselors Association later this month, and with advertising in NACAC print and online publications.

If you are a participating institution, we encourage you to use the re-launch as an opportunity to promote your institution's involvement in this important consumer initiative to local media, alumni, and other campus constituencies. You can find an updated U-CAN campus communications outreach toolkit -- with talking points, background on the initiative, sample promotional tools, and other resources -- on the NAICU Web site.

To date, more than 70 percent of NAICU members have joined U-CAN. We have set a goal of 100 percent participation by our institutions. If your college has yet to join U-CAN (or has not yet completed the recent data update), we strongly encourage you to do so. You can sign up by using our simple online form. The U-CAN site also lists institutions that have signed up, but have not yet published their U-CAN profile or updated their data. Please double-check the list to make sure that your institution is not among those whose profiles are not updated. Thank you for your commitment to U-CAN.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Step Forward for College Transparency, a Milestone for U-CAN

Number of Private Colleges Participating in the U-CAN Consumer Information Initiative Tops 700!

U-CAN has reached a milestone in campus participation. Nearly 11 months after the free, consumer-focused website was launched, the roster of private colleges and universities signed up to participate has grown to 711 institutions.

Since NAICU unveiled U-CAN on Sept. 26, 2007, with 600 private colleges and universities onboard, the number of participating institutions has grown by 19 percent. The association has 953 member schools, which enroll 85 percent of all students attending private colleges and universities in America.

With a design driven by consumer focus groups, the U-CAN site has been lauded for its rich and consumer-relevant information, and colorful, user-friendly format—by students, parents, college admissions counselors, and policymakers. Since U-CAN went live, more than 358,000 users have visited the site, viewing more than 850,000 pages.

U-CAN "2.0" to Launch in September 2008

U-CAN "2.0" will be launched in mid-September 2008, improving on a college search tool already noted for providing objective, comparable data on the factors that matter most to consumers: student costs broken out by category, tuition trends, admission and graduation rates, average student aid packages, average debt at graduation, and much more.

Site enhancements—growing out of user comments and focus groups with parents and students—will make it among the most searchable websites of its kind. The improved site will also provide guidance on how to prepare academically and financially for college, find the right fit, and navigate the admissions and financial aid processes. NAICU is exploring the development and addition of a new element that would allow consumers to see how colleges are spending their tuition dollars.

Friday, July 25, 2008

First Major U-CAN Data Overhaul A Success

We're pleased to announce the end of the first major U-CAN update period. Those profiles that have been updated are now posted on the U-CAN Web site.

The results of the update are better than expected. More than 90 percent of existing, published profiles have been updated, and more than 50 new institutions have been added to the published profile list. All told, there are now 709 participating institutions and 660 published profiles.

We've appreciated your patience as we worked through the process. Your comments and questions will be used as we refine the process for the October update period. Within the next few weeks, we'll send a formal survey to solicit your feedback. We're currently making the final tweaks to the public pages. If your institution published previously, but has not yet updated the U-CAN profile data, you can do so anytime by logging into your account, making updates, and clicking on the "Publish" button. This will move your profile from the "Awaiting Updates" list to the master list of updated profiles.

Remember that all institutions are free to update or modify their information (within the parameters of the instructions) using the publish process at any time.

Thanks again for your participation. We look forward to working with you to improve the process for the October update period.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

U-CAN Data Update Period Now Open

U-CAN is now in the process of updating data! The following note was sent to all participating campuses this morning:

U-CAN Participants,

First, a word of thanks for your patience as we work through the process of the first complete data update of the U-CAN profiles. We've established a system that is designed to maintain consistency of data across all profiles, and ask for your help in making sure that the information provided to consumers is as accurate and up to date as possible.

We've seen the popularity of U-CAN grow dramatically over its first nine months. To date, nearly 300,000 visitors have viewed more than 800,000 pages. Recent focus groups of parents of college-age students have found U-CAN a valuable source of vital information in making college choices. Some individual profiles have received over 20,000 views, and an increasing number of high school college counselors are using U-CAN in advising students. What makes U-CAN valuable to students and their families is that the information is comparable across all profiles. To maintain comparability, the information in U-CAN should reflect the most current data available to institutions.

As mentioned in our previous email, there will be two data update periods this year. The first begins today, June 10, and ends on July 23, 2008. The second will take place in late October to incorporate the new IPEDS information available at that time.

To facilitate data updating, we've set aside approximately six weeks for institutions to put current data into the system. At the end of the period, we will change the public side of U-CAN to reflect the new data. During the 6/10-7/23 update period the public template with the old dates will still be active on the site. To make certain information is presented accurately to the public, we will temporarily suspend the public publishing of new data until the end of the update period. Any changes made during this time will be saved within the system, but not made available on the public site until July 23, when the new template is released. At that point, we will republish only those profiles that have updated their information. Institutions that have not completed the data updating by July 23 will be held off-line pending updating, and will be republished to the live U-CAN site as soon as data updates have been made.

To update you must first check the new "update for 2008?" box at the top of the main data entry page. This toggles your data entry form to reflect the new dates and lets us know that you have checked the accuracy of your information. Instructions for data entry, revised for 2008-09, are available at

IMPORTANT NOTE: On July 23, only those institutions that have indicated that their information has been updated by checking the "update for 2008?" box will be available to the public on the new 2008 template. Institutions that have not updated their profiles by July 23 will be listed in a new category, "awaiting updates." Following July 23, institutions may publish information on the new template at any time simply by checking the "updated for 2008" box.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

What's New?

We're pleased to announce a new enhancement to the U-CAN site. The home page now includes a box highlighting newly added profiles and those with recent updates.

The new feature is the result of user comments - one of several that we hope to implement in the near future. U-CAN is designed to be responsive to consumer needs, so all comments are considered as we make improvements.

Have an idea that would make U-CAN better? Leave a comment here, or send a note to

Monday, November 5, 2007

U-CAN Pops Up in USA Today, Washington Times

A front-page Life section story ("Beyond rankings: A new way to look for a college") in today's USA Today refers to U-CAN, noting that more than 600 private institutions have signed up to participate since NAICU launched the web site in September. The article, which looks at the use of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) for institutional self-assessment, reports that "in a bid to circumvent federal oversight," NAICU and other higher ed groups have "developed or are developing web sites through which consumers can get information, including NSSE scores in some cases, in easy-to-compare formats."

The story comes a week after the Washington Times published a letter from NAICU President David Warren that describes how U-CAN helps students and parents make the best college choice.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

U-CAN Needs You for YouTube!

Now that we’re comfortably past the launch and initial roll-out, we’re ramping up our Web outreach strategy. A key component is a YouTube channel that showcases videos about U-CAN, college admissions, and stories from students about the college search process, all from the student perspective.

Know of a video lurking out there that would be perfect to highlight? Have some students interested in creating and submitting a video, and having it featured on our site? Extra points for humorous or otherwise entertaining spots. Let us know – the more content we can post, the better. Remember - videos need to be of general interest and not self-promotional.

We’ve created a basic channel and posted a few videos to get started, but need more. Click here to see the UCAN-Network YouTube channel.