Colleges hanging up landline phones in dorms

The era of the landline phone has ended on many college campuses.
The era of the landline phone has ended on many college campuses.

Tired of watching dust gather on dorm phones, several colleges in Indiana and elsewhere are pulling the plug on landlines, making their classes of 2014 the first to be totally cellular.

Without landlines, some colleges will save tens of thousands of dollars in hardware and hook-up fees paid to phone companies. Butler University, for example, could save up to $60,000 a year; Indiana State about $35,000.

But the reason for the change is not money: It’s the reality of a new high-tech generation.

“Almost none of our students were using the phones and lines we provided,” said Jim Amidon, a spokesman for Wabash College, which looks to save $20,000 a year. “Some students can choose to have phone lines activated this year, but we suspect very few will do so.”

And in those rare cases where a student wants a landline, the student will have to live in an older dorm—new and remodeled halls come without telephone jacks—and will have to pay the installation fees and supply the phone.

Additionally, the need for hard-wired phone jacks for internet connections is going away as more and more dorms are fitted with Wi-Fi capability.

Other schools that will be all-cell or are in the process of removing their landlines are Hanover, Indiana Tech, Indiana Wesleyan, and the University of Indianapolis.

Not everyone is making the switch yet.

Indiana University, where 12,000 students live on campus, says about 15 percent still use their landlines, based on voice-mail activation numbers from last year.

And Purdue says it will be at least two years before any drastic changes are made to its campus-wide fiber-optic system, which includes phone service.

Most students say they won’t miss the landlines.

“I could probably count on one hand the number of times I used [the dorm phone],” said Andrew Forrester, a senior at Wabash College. “I used it just one year, when I was a freshman. But I received more calls from telemarketers than anything else.”

Elsewhere, the universities of Virginia and South Dakota recently announced similar moves. Virginia officials say they could save $500,000 a year by removing the 3,850 phones in their dorms.

The limited use of dorm phones reflects what’s happening generally. Twenty-five percent of American homes have now gone to cell phones exclusively. In addition, industry estimates show 83 percent of today’s 17-year-olds (tomorrow’s college students) have their own cell phones, up from 64 percent five years ago.

The University of Indianapolis is gradually phasing out its landline service, according to Kory Vitangeli, dean of students. East Hall, for example, is a new residence hall for upperclassmen that opened last fall with no landlines in the rooms, while two other dorms for older students are having their landlines cut this year. And next year, three other dorms will be taken offline.

If there is any concern, it’s the potential for 911 not to work as well as it does with a traditional phone in the event an emergency call is made.

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