Editorial: Of textbooks and texting

Darn it, Dan, you're right. It isn't fair.

We're referring to Parental Frustration No. 4,366, Article 119, subsection B. You could look it up. We're paraphrasing here, but this particular fairness doctrine involves difficulty in effectively communicating with college-aged children.

In this particular case, Dan Gookin - a local author, member of the Coeur d'Alene City Council and proud pop - wrote a letter to the editor expressing his angst over several aspects of PF 4366. One of Dan's sons didn't see a "tuition due" email he'd been sent from North Idaho College, leading to his tuition not being paid, NIC withholding the son's certificate and rendering credit for summer courses in doubt.

News flash: Many college-aged children have moved past email at lightning speed. It is as antiquated to them as snail mail has become to many a middle-ager. These days, as Mr. Gookin points out, text messaging and social media like Facebook and Twitter are not just the preferred methods of youthful communication, but in some instances are seemingly the only ways they communicate.

The anxious expressions of one prominent parent have been addressed by two members of the college's board of trustees, one by letter to the editor and the other by posting a response online. Neither, we will note, sent Mr. Gookin an email.

We see both sides of this issue. Because Mr. Gookin pays his son's tuition - a responsibility borne by many parents - he implies that he should be included in important information like the need to fork over a tuition check. The trustees counter that because Dan's son is 18 or over, he's an adult and, legally, college officials are required to communicate exclusively with adult students, no matter who's picking up the tab. Gookin's need-to-know complaint makes sense, but because of privacy laws, the college's communicative hands are tied.

Here's a way to partly untie them.

While it's true that most colleges rely heavily on corresponding with students via email - and they say so right up front - we believe they're losing sight of the fact that the students are their customers and many of these customers would prefer to be sent important information in some manner other than email. If NIC and other institutions are intent on improving the college-to-student communication, they should adapt to the customer base, rather than try to force customers into something they don't want. Determined not to abandon email? Well then, even a simple text telling a student to check his or her email for urgent information would be a step in the right direction.

Of course, from a parental perspective, this would solve only part of the problem. Getting our kids to then share this urgent information with us is another matter entirely. That's why so many parents have grudgingly opened their own Twitter accounts and fumble awkwardly with text messaging.

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