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Michigan State U. to Shut Down Thousands of Alumni E-Mail Accounts to Save Money

Michigan State University has announced that it will stop providing full-service e-mail accounts to alumni who graduated more than two years ago, a cutback that will affect 117,000 people. Some of them are complaining, but officials say it is a necessary cost-cutting measure.

David Gift, vice provost for libraries and information-technology services, said that the policy had always been to discontinue full-service accounts two years after a student’s last class, but that the university simply had not enforced it. He doesn’t know of any other university that still offers full-service alumni accounts indefinitely; most terminate full e-mail accounts within a year after graduation, or turn them into forwarding accounts. The change will take effect on August 31.

Keeping all those alumni accounts running was costing Michigan State about $600,000 a year, said Mr. Gift. They amounted to about 45 percent of all university e-mail accounts. The money saved can be used to upgrade services for current students, he said.

“Keeping full-service accounts was a nice thing to do, and we felt like we could continue doing it,” Mr. Gift said. “Then again, the number of accounts that we need to serve for current students and current faculty and staff is a relatively fixed number over time, but you’re constantly adding to the number of alums, so it’s not just a static cost but a growing cost—that makes it very challenging.”

About 400 alumni have complained about losing their accounts, he said.

Administrators made the decision after considering an upgrade to a mail client like Microsoft Exchange, which charges per account. “But we have to remember, too, that we have lots of alums who graduated never having had an MSU e-mail address, so we stay in contact with them through social media and their personal e-mails,” Mr. Gift said.

“And we know that a relatively modest proportion of alums actually use these accounts, so it’s not a panacea for staying in touch,” he said. “I don’t think any university can offer full-service accounts indefinitely to alumni. Not on their own.”

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