Colleges losing money to students using cell phones.
October 14, 2002 1:03 PM   Subscribe

Colleges losing money to students using cell phones. I suppose this only makes sense considering the popularity of wireless phones but I just never associated long distance charges as a money making proposition for colleges.
posted by cmdnc0 (20 comments total)
Colleges are also "losing money" to students who eat off-campus, purchase books online, and ride bicycles instead of paying for on-campus parking.

Colleges were once in the business of providing a quality education. Now, however, they have find that there's much more money to be made in establishing a self-contained city, in which all necessities are provided by the college. Education is merely an excuse to get people to reside in the microcosm for an extended period of time.
posted by oissubke at 1:24 PM on October 14, 2002

Of course, the universities could make-up the difference by offering co-branded cellular service... or leasing their ivory towers for cell relay stations.
posted by silusGROK at 1:45 PM on October 14, 2002

Yeah that's funny. "We are losing money because you decide not to use our overpriced & crappy service."

I remember how these phantom repeated charges would appear on my long distance bill when I lived on campus. Charges for calls that had already been paid for in full. But to contest the charges you would have to wait in a line (only open during business hours) for about an hour and a half. Or you could have just paid that extra 5 bucks. Sounds like extortion to me.

For the record, I still do not own a cell phone either.
posted by Rattmouth at 2:08 PM on October 14, 2002

oissubke, I could not agree more.
The university I attend here in Milwaukee has an urban campus, and not much room to expand. The demand of on campus housing is always way more than the dorms can handle. There were three towers, ranging from 18 to 24 stories high, for the existing dorms that could hold 32 students per floor (8 suites with 4 students in each).

Last year they build a new fourth tower. They intended to build the new tower 26 stories, but due to the area, the local residents demanded that it be no taller than the highest existing tower.

But to ever one's surprise they decided to put in 4 luxury suites to each floor, instead of the normally 8. Now each suite has a double-size room for the student, a kitchen and "study" room. (384 students vs 768 students that could have been housed)

This is a profit making sham. Instead of offering the same size rooms as the rest of the dorm system to accommodate the demand for student housing, the took advantage of the opportunity to charge sky-high boarding rates (For what a person pays for one of these rooms, one could rent a one bedroom apartment in the Third Ward, Milwaukee's trendy downtown area)
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 2:09 PM on October 14, 2002

In related news, the city is "losing money" to people who aren't dropping their change on the sidewalks...

I wonder if hotels have a similar complaint. Most hotels have high charges for phone use, and most people I know use cell phones whenever possible when staying in hotels, for that reason.
posted by hattifattener at 3:12 PM on October 14, 2002

colleges making money on long distance? thats so mlm.

everyone knows the smart money's on Weapons Labs.
posted by tsarfan at 3:43 PM on October 14, 2002

I wonder if hotels have a similar complaint. Most hotels have high charges for phone use, and most people I know use cell phones whenever possible when staying in hotels, for that reason.

Customers still use hotel phone lines for dial-out data access. Slowly, hotels are starting to grab some of that business expense revenue by charging 10 cents a minute after 20 minutes on a 1-800 number, for instance.
posted by PrinceValium at 3:44 PM on October 14, 2002

Get ready to see a rash of colleges banning oncampus use of cellphones.
posted by Darke at 3:56 PM on October 14, 2002

My campus' long distance when I was using it in 1995 was so outrageously overpriced that it was worth your while to take a roll of quarters up to the pay phone in the dining hall and just start filling the dumb thing.

It's not like I needed the damn quarters for laundry. Or drinking games.
Stupid school phone company. I'm still bitter.
posted by togdon at 4:11 PM on October 14, 2002

hey, at least it goes to show that today's students are complete idiots (no really, it's a lesson in economics). Now if only i could get them to turn the damn things off before lab begins.
posted by NGnerd at 4:16 PM on October 14, 2002

Hrm. I remember a couple years ago when a collage banned, outright IP blocked because people were making free calls over the 'net.

Hrm, I wonder whatever happened to that service...
posted by delmoi at 4:20 PM on October 14, 2002

It always seemed a little suspicious to pay my phone bill to the UC Regents. . .
posted by birgitte at 4:37 PM on October 14, 2002

*sigh* remembering days of paying ridiculous dorm phone bills... I had a cel phone, too, but they weren't as cheap then. I'm still waiting for someone to start an initiative to kick all the credit card recruiters off campus.
posted by illusionaire at 5:15 PM on October 14, 2002

I'm at college now, and they don't even let you make regular long distance calls, though they do sell official phone cards. Pretty much everyone I know just buys a phone card from Sam's Club.
posted by dagnyscott at 5:37 PM on October 14, 2002

Although I never lived on campus when I was in school, I always used to be amazed by the way my College would slip back and forth from thinking of itself as a school, and then as a business...whenever one or the other position convenience the College (and usually inconvenienced me).

The school was in the suburbs, with plenty of parking, and no nearby businesses to generate extra cars trying to park...yet they still charged $35 per year for a parking sticker. For some reason, the cost of books was never added into the price of tuition, or the mandatory fees, for that matter.

There was a positively byzantine system by which you purchased and used points on your dining hall card. Even then, although you could cash in unused points at the end of the year, the school did not pay you even half of what you paid for the points to begin with. Because of this, you were left with no real idea of what the food cost you per meal, and you were still left with the feeling that you'd been robbed.

Then, of course, there was the practice (common, or so I was lead to understand), of charging more for courses if you were enrolled in a degree program, than they would charge if you were simply a member of the general public. Not just a little either, but something on the order of $1000 more, per course....and of course no one could count more than 2 courses taken prior to matriculation towards their degree.

These were only the blatant money making schemes that hit me...

I'm still in shock when I think about what my friends who lived on campus paid the school for their telephone service.

posted by ruggles at 5:45 PM on October 14, 2002

Surely at least one other person went to a university that merely said "The local phone company in *City* is *Foo*. Have fun," and a meal plan with a clear per-meal-per-day breakdown, etc?

As for all the costs, well, someone somewhere probably discovered that students and families bitch about that sort of thing less than they'd bitch about a (bigger) tuition hike, so they did that. At least you can (usually) opt out of dorms, phone companies, and books in the on-school bookstore.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:21 PM on October 14, 2002

I got my campus phone service bill today--I use a phone card for any long distance, but you're automatically signed up for local service. Last year, the company tried to bill me for a line that I never even hooked a phone up to. And ROU_Xenophobe, I'm sure there are such schools, but it's certainly not all of them. Mine requires undergrads to live on campus and participate in the meal plan--like ruggles', except we don't get reimbursed for the unused points at the end of the year. It's frustrating.
posted by hippugeek at 12:26 AM on October 15, 2002

Gee, I guess there were some advantages to last being in college in 1985, and law school in 1989. I distinctly remember some glitch in NYNEX's phone system making it impossible to bill for international calls (they were free). I also remember using rotary phones in the hall of Albany Medical College (accross from Albany Law School) to make free international phone calls. We had LPs, and Ronald Reagan back then, you know...
posted by ParisParamus at 4:22 AM on October 15, 2002

I wrote the student billing system at a 12,000 student college here in Michigan, and in our first year we "cost-avoided" $95,000. This included buying mucho equipment that would last for years. Mind you, this was only for dorm students - so probably around 2500-3000 students were in the program.

(we never claimed to make money at the University - we avoided some other cost somehow)

Now 10 years later, I can look back and see how much of higher education is all about making a buck and not really about educating students.
posted by worldinflux at 4:38 AM on October 15, 2002

hippugeek: first-years were required to live on grounds too (unless you had family in town), but that was it. We didn't get paid back for unused meals either, but they made it easy enough to not have unused meals that it didn't seem a big deal.

Costs are rising, and for state schools money from the legislature is usually falling. The money's got to come from somewhere, and most places they're forbidden from just raising tuition to compensate, so the only other alternative is to lean even further in the direction of overworked adjuncts and TA's. Take yer pick.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:22 AM on October 15, 2002

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