Many students don’t even want a college e-mail address these days because they already have well-established digital identities before they arrive on campus. That’s the conclusion that officials at Boston College came to in a recent review of their online services. So the college recently decided to stop offering full e-mail accounts to incoming students starting next fall.
Instead of a standard college e-mail account, next year’s freshmen will be offered an e-mail-forwarding service that will pass along messages to whatever personal e-mail account a student specifies, said Mary C. Corcoran, associate vice president for user and support services at the college. A student named John Smith might be given the address firstname.lastname@example.org, for instance, but the address will simply pass any incoming mail along to Mr. Smith’s Google mailbox, or to his Microsoft Hotmail, or to any other account the student might already have. The college currently runs such a forwarding service for alumni.
“Students weren’t really using the Boston College accounts as much as we would like them to,” said Ms. Corcoran. “It just becomes one more thing for them to check because their life is somewhere else.”
College officials looked into outsourcing their e-mail to Google or to Microsoft as many other colleges and universities have. Both companies offer such services free to colleges, hoping to hook students on their systems. But Ms. Corcoran said they decided against signing a deal with Google or Microsoft.
“We heard that the contracts were incredibly difficult to negotiate,” said Ms. Corcoran. “Some colleges were in negotiations for a couple of years.” The college also worried about the long-term implications. “At some point, who knows, they could start charging us,” she said.
And this way, the students get to pick which service they want to use for their e-mail, she said.
She said she doesn’t know of another college that has taken the e-mail-forwarding strategy with its students. —Jeffrey R. Young