Google announced today that it will issue Google Voice invitations to any and all students that want one. All you have to do is visit the special form set up for students, provide your .edu e-mail address, and Google claims you’ll have a Google Voice invitation in your mailbox in less than 24 hours.
This is big news for students, and is most likely an indication that Voice is close to coming out of beta. The implications for students are huge. Although some college campuses have moved away (or are in the process of moving away) from traditional landline telephones within dorm rooms, the majority still rely on phone lines and standard phone numbers for each residential room on campus. As anyone who’s lived at college knows, you will probably move at least two or three times during your life on campus, getting a new address and phone number with each move.
In addition, a lot of students start looking for gainful employment shortly before they graduate from college. Unfortunately, unless you provide your cell phone number (and pray that you have service wherever you are), you have to provide your campus phone number to potential employers. What happens, then, if you graduate and move off-campus before those employers return your calls?
However, if you are automatically granted a Google Voice number, you can keep the same phone number throughout your college experience and beyond. As with any Google Voice number, you can easily assign the number to multiple phones, you can read transcripts (and even receive those transcripts through e-mail and/or SMS) of voicemail messages, you can send and receive SMS messages on your PC or smartphone (without using your cellular carrier’s messaging service) and more.
There are even some colleges that have moved to hosting their .edu e-mail servers on Google Hosted Apps, which should make it even easier for students to manage their new Voice accounts (and might even prompt students to start using their school e-mail accounts more). I wonder if Google has any plans to automatically issue invitations to all students registered through those systems. I doubt it, but that would be an awfully nice step for them to take.
In my opinion, this is a really cool thing for Google to do for students, and I commend them for it. Hopefully students will take advantage of this offer.