In recent years, educators have witnessed a growing phenomenon called “summer melt,” where high school students who have been accepted to college fail to matriculate in a school in the fall semester following graduation. Summer melt is particularly high among students from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds.
A study conducted in the summer of 2012 examines how cost-effective text messaging programs can help students, particularly those from low-income backgrounds, overcome summer melt and successfully enroll in colleges.
Simplify the college enrollment process with helpful text messages
The most common reason why college-qualified students fail to matriculate in a college is trouble navigating the college application and enrollment processes. Students and parents, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, may find it difficult to understand complicated instructions and lack access to professional resources.
To bridge the gap between high school graduation and college, summer text messaging intervention programs can provide students with the information that they need in a convenient and easily accessible manner. Teens text the most out of any age group, and as an article in the New England Journal of Higher Education points out, “it is straightforward to automate and personalize text-message content to provide students with consolidated and timely information about the tasks required by their intended institution.” Sending timely text reminders encourages teens to complete tasks right away rather than putting them off until later. It can also direct them to a counselor who can aid them with tasks or include web links to useful online resources for those students with a smartphone.
Text messaging programs are a cost-effective way to increase enrollment in low-income communities
In the text messaging study, high school students from four urban districts were sent texts over the summer about completing important tasks in preparation for college enrollment. The results showed that text messaging increased enrollment by four percentage points in Dallas and seven percentage points in Lawrence and Springfield, Massachusetts, where fewer than two in ten adults have a bachelor’s degree.
These results demonstrate a clear benefit to using text messaging programs in communities with low college enrollment and graduation rates. In addition, not only is text messaging an effective way to help students through the complicated steps involved in matriculating at a college, it is also the most cost-effective. Research typically shows that $1000 in additional student aid increases enrollment by three to six percentage points, whereas the text messaging study only cost $7 per student!
Summer programs are only the beginning of what colleges can offer students with text messaging
The college application process offers schools an easy way to reach students and ask for consent to send text messages to their cell phones. By using the information students provide in their applications, colleges can segment students into groups and send targeted messages based on how far along a student is in the matriculation process.
Once a prospective student becomes a matriculated student, text message programs can also be used for a broad range of student services to continue communicating with them throughout their college career:
In fact, text reminders about required summer tasks could be only the midpoint of a more comprehensive, personalized messaging campaign by higher education institutions to increase college access and success among low-income students. Messages could start earlier, perhaps creating opportunities for prospective students to ask questions of current college students who attended high school in the same community. Messages could also continue later; these messages could remind students of important administrative tasks such as registering for courses or renewing the FAFSA or could provide students personalized encouragements to access available supports on campus if they are demonstrating unsatisfactory academic progress.
Text messaging is a proven strategy for driving action
Various case studies show that text messaging is the most effective way to reach young people and disadvantaged communities and getting them to take action:
- The National Cancer Institute’s smoking cessation campaign doubled the quit rate for teens with their text message support program.
- The University of Maryland’s FSNE program sent healthy living messages to lower-income families and found that 95% of parents changed their behaviors.
- The NYC Human Resources Administration’s TXT-2-Work program sends job text alerts to over 32,000 low-income job seekers in New York.
With text messaging programs, higher education institutions have the opportunity to help those students who are most likely to melt away over the summer. To learn how you can start reaching more students, contact us today!