You want to text students. But you don’t want to break the law. Lucky for you, it’s fairly easy to stay in compliance.
Part of our job is working closely with our client institutions (colleges and universities like yours) 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.)
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.
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.
The hazards of using links
Carriers are changing the way they monitor and review traffic over long code, 10-digit numbers, and messages containing links are not being received by constituents. Carriers are also being more selective in what they will allow and links are not the only issue causing certain texts to be flagged. If you need to direct constituents to a webpage or form, use other mediums like email, then, direct your contacts via text to the email that contains the link.
Texting is unlike any other communication medium and the rules on what is allowed are different at the carrier level.
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, and download our free template: text messaging policy for your campus.