Bill DeBaun, Program Analyst
“Bridgit,” a new online software platform to combat summer melt that was developed by NCAN member College Bound (St. Louis, MO) and funded by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, has moved out of beta testing and into a multi-state rollout. This is a promising next step for a tool that could prove useful for NCAN members, as well as college access programs more broadly, across the country.
Summer melt is a particularly pernicious phenomenon that disproportionately affects students from low-income households, first-generation students, and students of color. Summer melt, which has been researched recently and notably by Benjamin Castleman and Lindsay Page, refers to students who have been accepted to a college or university but do not actually matriculate for the fall semester. Although Castleman and Page estimate that 10% of accepted students “melt” each summer, that figure soars to upward of 40% for low-income students.
Bridgit’s core guides high school seniors through matriculation tasks, step-by-step. Examples include submitting immunization records, registering for summer orientation, paying the first tuition bill and organizing transportation to campus for the start of the year. When seniors complete the steps, which are customized to their housing and postsecondary plans, Bridgit generates a list prioritizing tasks by due dates and degree of challenge. The software allows counselors to view their entire student caseload on a dashboard that organizes the students by low, medium or high priority, increasing their ability for high impact support.
In the multi-state trial, students can access Bridgit via computer or their phone web browser. The software also employs text messaging to “reach kids where they are”; data supplied by students via computer will help schools and counselors to get students the resources they need to stay on-track to arrive on-campus.
Bridgit is being tested by seven high schools in two states. Within the first week, high school counselors in the participating schools captured detailed information on college plans for 80 percent of college intending students using a simple online intake survey. Based on the student’s answers, counselors were able to plan specific transition supports before seniors received their diplomas. Two community-based centers, St. Louis Graduates and Missouri College Advising Corps, are also testing Bridgit.
One of those centers, the St. Louis Graduates High School to College Center, provides free one-on-one counseling for students transitioning from high school to college. “Bridgit provides students with round-the-clock access to information on their progress toward enrollment and encourages them to take the next steps,” says St. Louis Graduates Project Manager, Laura Winter. “For collaboratives like ours, it’s so helpful to get real time information on the status of our efforts.”
Castleman and Page are supportive of the Bridgit software and note that, "Educational systems are neck deep in data but often lack the capacity to capitalize on that data to spur action and drive improvement. Bridgit is an innovative tool that supports counselors in gathering data about students’ college plans and translating that data to inform their practice.”
As part of the multi-state trial, Castleman and Page have designed a randomized control trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the Bridigt app. They've partnered with College Bound to select pilot partners and provided key insight into the design of the system itself (through improved clarity, user experience testing, and knowledge of best practices). This is in addition to the participation of Dr. Laura Owen, a professor at San Diego State University.
Stay tuned for more developments on the Bridgit software. Does this sound like something your program would benefit from? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us at @2collegenetwork!