UK drops dorm phones, saves $840,000

For University of Kentucky students, the land line is dead.

Cell phone-toting students have so little use for old-fashioned phone lines that UK has disconnected its dorm rooms, saving the school $840,000.

Although any of UK's 5,600 dorm residents can request a phone line, only seven had done so a day after the academic year began last Wednesday.

"I spend a lot of time on my cell phone," said Kimberly Lawless, 18, a freshman who graduated from Lexington's Paul Dunbar High School and lives in a UK dorm. "At my house I normally don't use the land line phone. I use my cell phone. I guess you have your cell phone everywhere."

Her attitude is the norm, according to a UK survey that shows 98.2 percent of students in dorms own and prefer to use cell phones over land lines.

"I grew up on the cell phone," said Tyler Fleck, 22, a senior from Louisville who majors in political science. "This generation, we've moved to the cell phone. Even my parents have cell phones."

Apparently, the cost of using a cell phone is no deterrent in a time of high college costs.

Lawless said her monthly cell phone bill is $50. "My parents pay the bill," she added.

Removing the land lines has saved the university about $840,000 — $25 per phone line.

"That's the reason we were able not to raise housing costs for this year," said Ben Crutcher, associate vice president for auxiliary services.

Also, more than $100,000 of the savings went to improve dorm Internet connections — something almost every student uses.

Just a few years ago, UK dorms had 3,060 land line phones. Now they have 260. These include hall phones for emergency use; and for the front desk, the hall directors and the resident advisers.

Crutcher said UK's actions follow a national trend.

"I believe every school in the SEC has taken phones out of residences," he said, as have most of the 19 benchmarks UK uses for comparison in its effort to become a Top 20 public research university.

UK says it still has the ability to contact most students during an emergency through cell phones, especially by text messaging.

But the situation is different at some other schools.

"We have actually put more phones in" because land line phones are an important part of the University of Louisville's emergency notification system, said spokesman John Drees.

Georgetown College freshmen automatically get free land line service, said spokesman Jim Durham. Upperclassmen have to request it, but only about a dozen have done so.

Campuses keeping land lines for now but planning to reassess the situation soon include Berea College, Eastern Kentucky University, Campbellsville University, Northern Kentucky University and Murray State University.

Lindsey Wilson College has taken out some, but not all, of its dorm phones, said spokesman Duane Bonifer.

Few students ever answered, he said, so "we stopped calling kids on their dorm room phones a long time ago."