Texting between students, college coming soon

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The service will include all Alamo Colleges and district offices

By Sergio Medina

smedina104@student.alamo.edu

The Alamo Colleges will install a texting system where students will be able to text school offices to get information about topics such as recruitment, admissions, financial aid and
scholarships.

The service, Two-Way Texting Solution, is expected to begin in the summer and will be permanent.

The service will feature two-way texting communication between students and district offices.

Patty Parma, associate vice chancellor of student access and success initiatives, said April 2 the ideal scenario is one where, eventually, students will be able to text at any time of the day, with texts sent at night answered by a system using artificial intelligence.

“During the day, it’s not difficult to answer a student right away,” Parma said.

“We’re looking to have a service overnight, but probably going to go with more of an eventually, artificial intelligence.”

For example, the A.I. would be able to immediately answer questions about how to apply for financial aid because it is universal information that can be automated, Parma said.

However, if students wished to find out about in-depth information such as holds on their record, the system would refer them to a real person, she said.

“And then whoever is responsible for that area would get a message the next day and contact you,” Parma said.

Offices at each college will have dedicated lines students will be able to text.

Offices would include financial services and admissions.

Students will be able to get information about recruitment, admissions, payments, financial aid, scholarships and non-emergency communication.

An example of non-emergency communication may include reminders, such as due payments or registration dates.

The system will not have dedicated lines for specific individuals.

“Each college will identify who is responsible for responding to that student within that office,” Parma said.

Parma said the text replies will be short and to the point to encourage engagement.

Students will be able to opt out of the system.

Parma said she would like to include dual credit students in the service, but the committee
overseeing the two-way system, which Parma is part of, must consult with the legal department to see if minors can participate. If there are no issues, dual credit students would be welcome to use it.

“They’re students; from our perspective, a student’s a student,” she said.

The service will be free, but students are subject to charges by their phone service providers for text
messaging.

The service would cover the five colleges and district support operations.

The board of trustees approved awarding a contract to Signal Vine Inc. March 19.

The contract will cost approximately $100,000 annually and will be covered by the district’s budget.

“We really want to be highly responsive to students, to be there for them and answer their questions and support them however we can,” Parma said.

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