You want to text students. But you don’t want to break the law. (Orange may be the new black, but it’s still not your color.) Lucky for you, it’s fairly easy to stay in compliance.
Part of my job is working closely with our client institutions to help them answer a few key questions:
- Can I legally text students? (Yes.)
- Just because it’s legal, should you do it without a student’s permission? (It depends.)
- How do I get their permission? (Let’s talk.)
We know that texting improves enrollment and retention. But it has to be done the right way in order to stay out of hot water. Here’s what you need to know.
The law of the land
The FCC updated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act in 2012. This update increased some restrictions related to sending texts to mobile phones. However, the regulations (still) do not apply to non-profits. As NACAC says, “non-profit colleges and universities should not be concerned about compliance with this law.”
Opt ins (& outs)
The generally accepted rule is that nonprofit organizations are not legally required to get explicit consent in order to text students. For prospective students, especially at the "inquiry" stage we recommend obtaining some form of opt-in. This can come from the Common App, or from an opt-in box on an inquiry card or website.
Legal vs. ethical
Just because it may be legal to text students without getting specific opt-in doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. A student’s phone is his or her personal space. Students don’t want spam. So regardless of the law, always remember: If a student feels that it's spam - then it's spam.
Protecting you from yourself
Cadence won’t even let you text a student who opted out. Think of it as your get-out-of-jail-free card from your friends at Mongoose.
Learn from what we did with email
Without question, texting works. Does that mean you should jump right in, start texting students and encourage your colleagues to do the same? Not so fast! When you open up your entire campus to contact students whenever they want - you burn the medium (think of what happened with email). Be very careful what offices and individuals you give access to text students. With this medium more than ever - thoughtful governance is essential. We highly recommend consideration be given on how to best manage texting preferences in an enterprise environment.