University of Cincinnati Offers Free Cell Phones to Incoming Freshmen

University of Cincinnati Offers Free Cell Phones to Incoming Freshmen

CINCINNATI
The University of Cincinnati has launched a voluntary program that offers all incoming freshmen a free cellular telephone. The cell phone push is part of UC’s effort to become a leading comprehensive wireless university community. While the phone will be free, the new students must purchase a UC Mobile plan, created in partnership with Cincinnati Bell. UC and several other American colleges and universities have turned to cell phones as a way to improve communication with students and to tap into new revenue sources.

The free phone, which features the university’s Bearcat mascot on the welcome screen, can alert students of changes in their courses, locations of shuttle buses and campus navigation information.

“The landline probably will be obsolete in five years or so, and we want to be in the forefront of new technology,” says Frederick Siff, UC’s chief information officer. “Students don’t carry laptops around constantly, but they always have their cell phones.”

According to UC officials, freshmen are offered a free Nokia phone but pay for the voice and data services they select. They have the option to buy trendier phones like Motorola’s Razr or an I-Mate “smart phone.” The phones allow access to academic and campus information, as well as to a help button to contact emergency services, according to officials.

“Communicating with students on a regular basis has become a challenge, and schools are looking for ways to address that issue as well as safety,” says Patricia Scott, a spokeswoman for the Association of Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education.

UC officials unveiled the cell phone initiative at the two-day new student orientation sessions that began on June 22. Caroline Miller, associate vice president of enrollment management, has estimated that nearly 5,000 students will have attended the summer orientation by early August.

Students interested in the plan have been able to receive their phones at the orientation. The UC-related applications become available at the start of the fall quarter, officials say.



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