Colleges use websites for a multitude of reasons. With their main focus usually on campus and campus life.
First and foremost a college website is a sales tool showcasing programs offered, the campus, and student life. For a prospective student, the college website is their first look at what the next few years of their life will be.
Colleges understand that their website is a sales tool; they will have every bit of information you will need to make the decision to go to their school without ever having to actually talk to someone. They will also have plenty of opportunities showcased to request information or talk to an advisor. These will come in the form of Web Forms or Brochures.
Generally on the Home Page the core fundamentals will be displayed. Meaning a breakdown of areas of study; where can I apply; can I get financial aid; news feed; calendar of events. If you are potential student generally these are the most important areas to you. They let you get a feel for the school and let you get the most out of your visit to the site all in one place.
Colleges use tools such as web forms and brochures to track potential students and help them get the correct information for the field of study they are interested in.
Colleges also use their websites as a powerful tool for faculty and enrolled students. It is the base for communication between faculty and students for class work. The website can be used to relay important information not only about classes and events but also as a way to communicate in emergency situations.
Students and faculty alike can login and see information deemed appropriate for them. It is a great tool to organize study groups, campus events, athletic events and student events.
Colleges use their site to take donations to help fund programs and the school itself.
Colleges use websites to reach not only student enrollment goals but also financial goals. Whether they are running a fundraiser or simply taking donations in general. The website is a gate way for users to get to the right place.