Links from .edu domains are commonly thought to be higher quality links than links from other top level domains. There is truth to the notion, but not because the domain has the magic letters (.edu) in the domain. The reason why these types of domains tend to offer better quality links is that they often receive better quality links, and in significant volume.
Philipp Lenssen at Google Blogoscoped provides an example of this with his recent post .Edu and Spam, where he provides the example of America.edu, a site filled with Google Ads. In spite of 941 third party back links (according to Yahoo), the site has a Page Rank of 0.
A quick look at the site reveals the problem. In addition to the Google ads, the rest of the content is in the form of news feeds. The site is not going to draw a whole slew of high quality links. They actually do have a couple of decent links in the batch, which appear to have been obtained by writing and syndicating articles.
Ultimately, there is no magic fairy dust here, or with .edu domains in general. However, there are a couple of reasons why looking to colleges and universities is still a really good idea:
- Real colleges and universities do get a lot of trusted links, and therefore and provide a more trusted link
- These schools also do like to point their students to helpful resources
These factors make this a useful direction for link building efforts. However, be sure that you do have something very, very useful. These types of entities tend to shine a harsh white light on all such requests to make sure that they truly have merit, and are useful for their students.