‘R U on Track for College?’ Texting A New Strategy

Career College Central summary:

  • As educators look for ways to keep high school seniors on track for college and to avoid the "summer melt" that leads some astray in the months after they graduate, a new strategy is gaining ground: texting. This year, West Virginia launched a pilot program that alerts students about deadlines for financial aid, registration, and student orientation, among other matters, with personalized messages on their mobile phones. The texting initiative targets students from low-income families—especially those set to become the first in their families to attend college.
  • It begins in January of students' senior year and continues into the summer and even through the freshman year of college. After getting a text reminder, a student may contact a counselor at his or her high school or on campus for more personal, one-on-one assistance.
  • Minnesota is in the second year of a similar pilot. Also, nonprofit organizations in St. Louis and New York City are trying such texting programs for students who might not get much academic guidance at home. "We wanted to connect students with college support staff earlier," said Jessica A. Kennedy, the assistant director of communications at the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission. "When students transition from high school to college, they don't have anyone to reach out to in the summer. They are scrambling to build new support systems and want more."
  • When designing its program with 14 high schools and four colleges, West Virginia looked to the work of researchers Benjamin L. Castleman of the University of Virginia and Lindsay C. Page of the University of Pittsburgh. The two scholars have documented the effects of recent texting initiatives, finding the practice can increase matriculation by up to 11 percent in communities where students had little access to college advising or information. They also find it to be a very affordable intervention, costing about $7 per student.

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