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[FREE GUIDE]  Texting Across the Enterprise DOWNLOAD
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How to Text Students, Alumni and Parents Without Breaking Privacy Laws

6 min read

You already manage student privacy when it comes to emails, phone calls and other channels. Look at texting as another channel to be treated with the same care. Yes, there are a few unique things to keep in mind, but it’s fairly simple to be compliant.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. TCPA and FERPA apply to texting — but the rules are fairly easy to follow

The two main regulations that govern privacy and texting are FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act).

FERPA says that a student’s information is private. Typically, only staff members who have a legitimate need to see a student’s data should have access to it. What does that mean?

  • Prospective students — FERPA doesn’t apply to prospective students so your admissions staff doesn’t need to worry about FERPA for prospects
  • Current students — whatever you do for student emails and phone calls, just apply the same logic and policy to texting; it’s really that simple, because texting is just another way to communicate with students

TCPA insn't specific to higher education. It applies to everyone (prospective students, current students, parents and alumni), and regulates any texts sent from third parties to mobile phones. 

Until recently, the general rule for nonprofit orginaizations is that they're not legally required to obtain explicit consent to text their contacts. It's important to know that industry-wide best practices are changing. Schools are now expected to obtain written (and documented) consent before engaging in texting campaigns.

Phone carriers and service providers are becoming more sensitive to high opt-out rates and spam complaints. Following the guidelines laid out in our compliance checklist will safeguard your ability to deliver text messages and set your school up for long-term success.

Always be sure to:
  • Obtain Consent: Ensure your contacts have agreed to receive text messages.
  • Establish a Collection Process: Use a checkbox within application submissions, contact forms, and website portals to easily obtain consent.
  • Store Texting Preferences: One opt-in doesn't apply to all schools and departments. Keep a record of opt-ins by school, department, or team. If your texting solution doesn't manage this for you, you'll need to track it manually.

A comprehensive Text Messaging Policy can help guide your staff (and make your legal office happy). While every campus is different, you can use our Text Messaging Policy Template to get started.

Depending on your texting solution, you can easily track consent across departments and schools for prospective and current students (and their families).

If you're texting via a CRM texting feature, your school is at a higher risk for penalties. Since texting isn't a priority for CRM companies, they're usually the last to hear and adapt to industry changes. When CRMs lag behind industry standards, the schools using them suffer. Schools need support in their solutions to protect them from harm and to ensure they see results from their texting campaigns.

 

2. Just because you can text doesn’t mean you should

The read rate for texts is virtually 100%, but only because there’s almost no spam. If you start sending students dozens of texts that students don’t want, they’ll ignore you (or worse, flag you as spam).

Remember that a student’s phone is very much their personal space. Every text you send needs to be timely, relevant, and valuable to them.

Based on results from over 725 colleges and universitities, we know what students and parents are looking for in their texting communications:

Students want things like:

  • Deadline reminders
  • Updates from admissions counselors
  • Updates from advisors

Students don’t want things like:

  • Promotions (e.g., Save 25% at the bookstore!)
  • Links to social media posts
  • Links to your website

 

3. Smart governance now will save you major headaches later

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is giving too many people the power to text students. Every department thinks they have something important to say — but students don’t want 20 texts a day from you. They’ll tune out, fast.

Choose wisely. Only give permissions to a select few departments and staff. Really think about who has to communicate with students, and who students really want to hear from.

  • Admissions
  • Financial Aid
  • Student Success
  • Registrar’s office

With a conversational texting platform, you can easily set up departments and grant permissions. For example, an admissions counselor will only be able to text students in his or her territory, while offices like the Registrar will be able to text everyone (but can still target specific groups of students). This governance helps with FERPA compliance, and helps ensure that students will read your texts.

4. There’s huge untapped opportunity for schools who use texting the right way

It’s ironic that texting is both the most effective communications medium — and the most underutilized. Students and parents want texts, but many schools aren’t sending them.

As Ruffalo Noel Levitz said, “More institutions should begin to incorporate texting, based on the ratings of effectiveness.”

Look at the numbers:

  • Florida Southern achieved record enrollment three years in a row — and a 69% response rate for a campus visit event since adding two-way conversationa texting to their student engagement strategy
  • Since Campbell University started with conversational texting, add/drops have decreased from 21% to 9% and retention has increased 5% — numbers that have been holding steady the last four terms, according to their Student Services office

Student Engagement on the Rise

Modern student engagement elegantly marries automation and human interaction across the student lifecycle, fostering relationships with students, their families, alumni, and donors. These deep connections drive enrollment, foster student success, and increase alumni involvement for strong returns at an institutional level.

Learn more about student engagement and what it means for your school here.

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Mongoose is dedicated to educating and empowering the higher ed community with the knowledge you need to help more students succeed. All of our articles, podcasts, and videos come from real engagement experts with a deep understanding of higher education.

Subscribe for regulatory updates, along with the best guides and how-tos for the higher ed community. If you're sick of email, we totally get it. That's why there's the For Your Institution podcast or video series on YouTube. For quick takes and bite-sized industry updates, follow Mongoose on LinkedIn.

 

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