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Students to receive official UTSA information only by e-mail

(Jan. 9, 2004)--UTSA students no longer have to ambush the mail carrier each day seeking news of financial aid, scholarships, academic progress or billing letters from the university.

Instead, students can check their Lonestar e-mail accounts from any computer. As of the spring 2004 semester, all official university communications will be transmitted through e-mail, not snail mail.

"[Students are] going to be held accountable for the information that's sent to them in Lonestar," said Rosalie Ambrosino, vice president for student affairs. "Notifications about applying for scholarships, financial aid award notifications, bills -- all of those things are coming to them in e-mail now."

Every UTSA student, including currently enrolled and admitted students, is assigned a UTSA e-mail account, putting more than 36,000 accounts on the Lonestar system. Students can find both their user names and initial passwords for Lonestar access by logging in to ASAP/Banner. The Lonestar instructions are also spelled out in admission letters.

Students can log in to Lonestar and set up the account to forward all e-mails to a different address if they prefer, but no student can change the official e-mail address listed in university records. Additionally, they are able to customize their log-in pages to offer the weather report, comics, news links and more. 

"We want students to accept this change, because you don't know how many times when we send out something through postal mail that information gets returned because it's a wrong address," said Joe DeCristoforo, assistant vice president and university registrar. "That's the reason why students can't change their preferred e-mail address.  It always has to be Lonestar.  We don't want to send out to when they left two months ago, and now they're on Microsoft Network."

The move to electronic communication comes on the heels of a survey done in UTSA computer labs that revealed 81 percent of UTSA students have computers at home. Students without home computers or laptops can access Lonestar at any of the kiosks around the campuses or in one of the computer labs. 

Students won't have to worry about being bombarded with e-mails about bake sales and campus events says Ambrosino, adding that a regular newsletter to increase awareness about campus life is in the works.

 "We're in the process of ensuring only official UTSA business is communicated through the UTSA Lonestar account," DeCristoforo said.  "Students can give their Lonestar address to friends, and we hope that they do.  We highly encourage them to do that."

Lonestar will do more than just speed up the communications process between the university and its students.  Money the university normally has to spend on postage and paper can be used for things like outreach programs and getting more students to apply for aid. 

"We can remind students of deadlines, remind students that they need to turn in paperwork -- things like that that we haven't been able to afford to do," said Lisa Blazer, assistant vice president for student financial aid.  "It's really a cost-saver for us, and it allows us to do a little bit more reminding students what they need to do for financial aid."

The Lonestar system can be tailored for different segments of the student population, affording students nearing graduation or in certain majors the ability to receive messages specific to their needs and upcoming deadlines.

According to UTSA Business Manager Gary Lott, the new system helps students avoid standing in long lines and generally improves both speed and accuracy when it comes to starting a new semester.  With  regular mail, the paper bills were outdated too soon.  Schedule changes often resulted in inaccurate bills with students who were dropped for nonpayment learning several days after the fact, forcing them to scramble for a new schedule.  E-mail changes things.

In the move to all things electronic, students can also pay university bills online with a credit card or through the new e-check system.

Meanwhile, faculty and staff interested in communicating to students through student e-mail can send requests to Linda Mahoney, Office of Undergraduate Studies.

--Leigh Anne Gullett

University Communications
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