College dorms doing away with landlines

Published: Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 11:24 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 22, 2009 at 11:24 a.m.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. What's that ringing? If you're in a college dorm room, it's probably not a landline telephone.

Most university residence halls simply don't have them anymore. Some may still have a phone jack in the walls, but in many cases the jack is not activated.

Officials at campuses in the Kansas City area said that, for the most part, landline phones in campus housing have gone the way of typewriters.

It is another sign of more people cutting the cord to traditional phones and relying strictly on cell phones and the Internet.

Roughly one in six 17.5 percent of U.S. households in 2008 didn't have a landline, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Some colleges aren't stopping at dorm rooms, either. About 75 employees of Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Ga., went wireless earlier this month, the school's chief information officer recently told USA Today.

It is another way colleges and universities facing a difficult economy can cut costs.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City disconnected the landlines in its residence halls in 2007, a savings of $75,000 a year.

For the second year, Truman State University in Kirksville, Mo., is not providing landline phones in all its dorm rooms. They do have hookups, "although very few are utilized," said Heidi Templeton, a university spokeswoman.

Like Truman, the University of Missouri in Columbia and many other campuses have kept at least one landline phone in a hallway or main lobby for emergencies.

Last year, UMKC opened new student housing that included landline connections. Out of 850 students with residence hall rooms, only four hooked up landlines.

Darby Peoples, the dean of students at Avila University, said that at a conference last year many campus housing officials said that if they were building new residence halls they were not including landline hookups.

One of the exceptions may be the University of Kansas, which still offers active landline jacks in each residence hall room.

"We cannot guarantee every student will arrive with a cell phone or want to use it for every call," said Jill Jess, a KU spokeswoman. "The landlines do get used."

But not much, students said.

Libby Johnson, a KU sophomore from Lawrence, said that when she lived in Oliver Hall she didn't know of anyone who had a landline.

"We all had cell phones," Johnson said. "I got used to putting my cell number down for all my professors."

A survey earlier this year by College Parents of America found that of the 900 parents who responded online, only 25 percent said they use landline phones to communicate with their child away at school.

Campus officials rely more on cell phones to communicate with students, too.

After the deadly shootings in 2007 at Virginia Tech, colleges and universities across the country began installing emergency e-mail and text-messaging systems to alert their campus populations of breaches in security.

School officials concluded that e-mail and text messaging were the best ways to reach students anywhere at any time because colleges know that for nearly every student on campus their cell phone is practically a body appendage.

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