Why Schools and Colleges Are Texting Students and Parents
Text messaging is considered a key component of school and college communication programs. In fact, texting has become the gold standard in campus communications because texting is fast, convenient, cost effective and very efficient in delivering time sensitive information to students, parents, school personnel, and other important stakeholders.
Communications have changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Baby boomers can easily recall the time when residential colleges had landline phones installed in dorm rooms. They were basic phones with no caller ID information, so when the phone rang, students actually answered. That infrastructure no long exists. It was costly to maintain and, with the advent of cell phones, became obsolete.
Yes, email is widely used by schools and colleges, and while emails are still important because they can contain a great deal of information, they are generally not read very quickly anymore. Email was once a great tool but with the amount of spam people receive these days, important emails are frequently lost in the clutter. While texting may be a relatively recent way for school and campus administrators to communicate with students, it is far from new for the students themselves. In fact, surveys clearly show that it is the preferred method for students to send and receive messages.
The average student is sending more than 2000 text messages per month. If you want to get the attention of your students, you need to communicate in the mode they prefer, because the chances of migrating them to your preferred method are slim.
Here are the top 8 reasons why schools and colleges are using texting as a core communications tool in their outreach programs to distribute information regarding important campus developments, reminders and news updates.
1) Texting Emergency Campus Alerts
Security is a top priority these days and with the proliferation of violence on school campuses, there are occasions when the administration needs to reach students and faculty immediately to advise on the situation and direct everyone to either evacuate or shelter in place. Using “blast texting” technology to send alerts is ideal because it’s almost instantaneous.
In addition, while cell phones can be silenced, they can still show pop up text message notifications, so they are an ideal way to update everyone without drawing attention to their location. The idea is to disseminate the information rapidly but without adding additional risk to those you are trying to protect. Texting can do that.
2) Texting is Ideal for Weather Related Closings and to Distribute Other Important Notices
Whether living on a campus or commuting to a school, there are times that weather is going to impact whether schools and classes have to be cancelled. Text messages can be sent out immediately once the closing or delay has been decided, and you can even include a link for everyone to watch for further updates. This application is particularly important for community colleges and other commuter schools where students are spread out over a large geographic area.
Many primary and secondary schools have historically used a local television station to announce school closings, and still do. However many are moving to sending a blast text message to parents to alert them because fewer people are watching regular tv these days, especially if parents are in a hurry to get to work themselves. In addition, some school closings are not weather related, like a pipe burst or power outage, and parents and students may have no warning prior to arriving at a shuttered school.
A blast text message disseminates the information rapidly to the constituencies that need to know, so that they can make other arrangements. That’s why schools and colleges are texting students and parents.
3) Schools Use Texting to Remind Students of Deadlines
While older generations believe that college students should be able to manage deadlines for paperwork, the fact is that a large number of today’s youth have had parents who have micromanaged much of their lives, including deadline reminders. So, many youth entering college these days lack the skills to manage without prompting. We have heard from countless college administrators that we work with, that they find they have to prompt students continuously.
While texting students might seem counter intuitive to helping them develop their skills, the fact is that if schools and colleges don’t prompt students it actually creates a tremendous amount of additional work for already overloaded administrators, as students miss important deadlines. In addition students are becoming increasingly more stressed and less able to cope when confronted with the result of a missed deadline, like registration or financial aid, so texting students helps to alleviate that issue. Frequent deadline reminders include registration reminders, upcoming tuition payments, avoiding late fees, submitting financial aid forms and many more.
4) Texting is Economical
It used to be that organizations had to invest in expensive infrastructure that took a lot of time to implement, in order to send out notifications to students and parents. Nowadays, the technological infrastructure is already in place and educational institutions can tap into it and begin their text programs immediately with very little or no ramp up time by outsourcing to a text service bureau.
Since the in-house infrastructure is no longer needed, mass texting has become a very economical way to deliver alerts, notices, and other time sensitive or important information. Penny for penny, and dollar for dollar, you won’t find any other system that will deliver important messages for less. Remember, email may be cheaper, but it may not be read. And that is the key! If you are looking for an economical and cost effective method to deliver messages that actually are read by your target audience, texting is your answer.
5) Startup is Quick with No Need for Any Hardware or Special Software
The system is reliable and easy to use. Administrators can simply login to their online account, upload their list and send their messages. You can manage your text program without the need of any special hardware, software or technical know-how. Lists are automatically stored and can be easily maintained and edited as needed.
If you want to personalize your messages with each persons’ first name, you just need to include them as a separate column on your list. You can access your account from any computer with an internet connection, so you are not tied to a specific location. This is especially helpful if you are sending out emergency communications. All you need to get started is to have a list of phone numbers and you can send texts at will.
6) Texting Provides a Powerful Supplement to Other Communication Methods
Schools and colleges will still need to use email, voice messaging and regular mail for many communications, but many schools are using sms texting in addition to those formats. For instance, the business office at an increasing number of schools send out text alerts to their students to remind them to check their email for time sensitive information regarding registration, financial aid deadlines etc. Texts are limited in size, but they serve as a prompt to students to retrieve important information from their email.
7) Students Read Text Messages
The vast majority of students have text capable mobile devices and check their text messages dozens of times a day, almost instantly upon receipt. Because students think email is too cumbersome and slow, and because many don’t even bother checking their voicemail or even answering the phone, texting is becoming the ideal way for universities and institutions to send messages, notices, alerts, reminders and updates, with more confidence that their messages will be received and read.
Texting is not only simple, but it’s also a discreet way to communicate without being overheard.
8) Compliance with Opt-in Regulations Are Easy for Schools and Colleges to Implement
The government and mobile industry regulations for texting are strict. You cannot mass text to mobile numbers without express written permission, and even with that you must provide an opt-out mechanism. However, schools and colleges are in a unique position to capture mobile numbers and permission, as most students have to fill out an enormous amount of paperwork when enrolling.
Most schools routinely ask students for a mobile number to contact in that paperwork – it is essentially a requirement for enrollment. So creating an opt-in list is a natural part of the enrollment process. For prospective students, many schools are capturing mobile numbers from forms on their websites: they ask the visitor if they would like to receive updates from the admissions office and to provide their mobile number.
Overall, texting technology has become a staple in education and will continue as a critical element in any communications and outreach efforts employed by schools and colleges. That’s why schools and colleges are texting students and parents. With the advent of the “cloud,” schools no longer have to budget for any capital expenditures and can easily launch texting services quickly and inexpensively. As long as your educational institution establishes and maintains an opt-in system to obtain consent from students and other interested parties, your texting program will be totally compliant and ready to use 24/7 to get important messages out to your constituencies at a moment’s notice.
We can help with your school and college texting program. Just give us a call at 888-387-8636 or fill out the Contact Us form today.