wooden lockers

It’s time for the college mailroom to get an upgrade

by Renaud Rodrigue


Considerations for mailroom upgrades to accommodate packages

Time: 4  minute read

The college mailroom is one of those critical student services that likely invokes an intimidating scene in your head.

Imagine frazzled-looking people poring over an unprecedented number of unsorted packages trying to serve long lines of students that are not just picking up packages, but also inquiring if their package has arrived yet. There is no doubt that the campus mail center workers do some very difficult work that their universities can’t do without.

Automation and technology can make that difficult work much more manageable, and many universities would be happy to update their campus mail centers to become more streamlined with less intensive workflow processes. Unfortunately, other initiatives — enrollment, admissions and learning innovation — tend to dominate your focus. Consequently, your campus mail center often fails to get the attention it deserves.

If your institution is like increasing numbers of higher education institutions striving to provide modern and safe campus mail solutions, it may be time for change. “Old fashioned” campus mail rooms are not only a source of headaches for clerks and students, they also often devote too much space to mailboxes designed for letters and too little space to the growing volume of larger packages. This setup simply does not reflect the current state of campus mail. Today, many students don’t send or receive many, if any, letters. They do, however, get a lot of packages. According to a survey by Harris Poll, 95 percent of adults in the U.S. believe college students look forward to receiving packages at school from family and friends.


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Mail is dead, long live mail

Flat mail has been on the decline at universities1 to justify the large space and cost demands their mail operations can impose; these concerns become especially justified considering your student and faculty preferences for digital communications, now more accessible than ever. However, the Internet has by no means spelled the end of physical mail. Quite the opposite, in fact, as online ordering from sites like Amazon, Delivery.com, and Etsy have encouraged a boom in package delivery — a boom that campus mail centers, which are often decades old, were not built to handle.

When a student package arrives, campus mail centers made for flat mail have few workarounds. They can leave a delivery notice in the student’s PO box, which they will find in the increasingly infrequent event they check their mailbox. Campus mail center workers can wait for the student to come to the campus mail center and ask for their packages. Or they can proactively search for the student’s contact information and send the student an email, text or call letting the student know about the package arrival — a process that’s time-consuming for any institution and borderline impossible for larger schools that receive hundreds of packages per day.

Fortunately, there is a better way.

The Internet has by no means spelled the end of physical mail.

Package tracking doesn’t stop on delivery

Many universities are recognizing and embracing the increased flow of packages into their mail operations, and the increased demand for package pickup to mirror the instant gratification of online shopping. 76 percent of college students in the recent survey said it would be helpful to receive immediate notification of a package and/or mail delivery. While not every institution is quite ready to rip out its mailboxes, as Loyola University Maryland did2, many are turning to technological campus mail solutions, often paired with services support from external experts to meet these demands.

Some campus mail solutions include barcode support to help facilitate monitoring and management of the movement of packages throughout a campus, syncing with back-end systems to automatically alert students when their packages are available for pickup.

Others have gone a step further, introducing electronic kiosks. Automated emails to students alert them when their packages have arrived. When the student arrives at a kiosk (strategically placed within 30 seconds of the mail pick-up area), they can swipe their student ID card and select the packages they want to pick up from a list. Mail center employees are then notified, enabling them to quickly and easily produce the requested parcels. The transaction is automatically documented, eliminating the need for cumbersome, error-prone manual ticketing. The long lines and disruptive package storage that typically monopolize pickup areas are nearly eliminated. And since the pickup area is usually in the student union, the newly freed space can be used for new amenities, such as a coffee shop.

By partnering with a team of experts that can help you get information to those who need it anytime, anywhere — you can prepare your campus mail solution for the future and improve your students’ experiences, both in their revamped campus mail center and across the rest of campus.

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1 "Campus Mail changes daily schedule". UDaily, February 6, 2012. http://www1.udel.edu/udaily/2012/feb/campus-mail-020612.html
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