Freezing Summer Melt: Increasing College Access and Success Through Text Messaging

A topic that continues to prompt thoughtful discussion in the college access field is the phenomenon of summer melt – the unfortunate situation in which a student is accepted to a postsecondary institution but fails to enroll or attend. 

The National College Access Network is pleased to support college access and success programs as they combat summer melt through our 2019 Summer Melt Texting Campaign. As part of a collaborative agreement with Signal Vine, NCAN is offering members an opportunity to test-drive a text messaging tool that can help support their students’ transition from high school to college. Although texting can be used as a year-round strategy to engage with students, this opportunity will focus on a four-month summer melt program and allow NCAN members to assess whether this is an effective strategy for your students.

This benefit is specifically geared toward meeting the needs of:

  • Smaller NCAN members for whom entering into their own contract with Signal Vine might not be cost-effective.
  • Any NCAN member who wants a short-term opportunity to determine whether texting is a good option for their program.

    What is the Signal Vine platform?

    Signal Vine is a two-way text messaging platform that enables education organizations to interact with large numbers of students. The platform allows advisors to send personalized, timely, and meaningful messages to their students to drive specific behaviors, activities, and outcomes. Here's how it works:

  • Messages are two-way and interactive: They request either a student action or student response. Students can also text back with a specific question for their advisor.
  • Message content is programmed in a consistent, well-timed, and relevant way.
  • Based on a student’s unique response to a text message, subsequent messages are “branched,” or customized to the next logical behavior/response.
  • The platform captures data on student responses that advisors can see and analyze. Advisers can then take any additional actions they deem necessary to elicit the desired action or outcome, including sending personalized texts to individual students.
  • Each advisor has their own portal and sees only information on their students.

How does the Summer Melt Texting Campaign work?

NCAN provides a standard set of messages for this 16-week summer melt campaign to help students with their transition from high school to college. Each participating organization will be able to customize these messages to include program-specific content or important dates and deadlines. The platform allows the organization to send messages to groups of students or individuals alone using the aforementioned “message branching” logic. It can interact with students based on the way they respond to previous text messages. A dashboard allows advisors to see aggregate metrics and results across their students.

But is it effective?

Yes! Since the summer of 2012, uAspire, in partnership with Signal Vine, has implemented text-based outreach services to students to support their transition from high school to college and throughout their first year of college. Results of an evaluation of this project indicate that students who received texts were 7.1 percentage points more likely to enroll than those who did not. And among students who did not have defined college plans at the end of their senior year, those who received texts were 11.3 percentage points more likely to enroll than those who did not.

Additionally, a survey follow-up with students who received text messages during this time showed that 86 percent reported that the texts encouraged them to complete a task they hadn’t completed, and 85 percent reported that texts informed them about something they hadn’t realized they needed to complete.

For a comprehensive roundup of research on text message nudging, check out this blog, which summarizes the effects on college access outcomes with an emphasis on findings on the completion of pre-matriculation tasks, FAFSA submission, and college enrollment.

How much does it cost?

The cost for the Summer Melt Texting Campaign is $5 per student; there are no setup fees for NCAN members who participate. This includes a standard set of messages for the 16-week campaign, which participating organizations will be able to customize and/or supplement at no additional charge.

Interested?

March 25, 2019 is the deadline to commit to the project. Sign up here.

Want to learn more? Signal Vine will host a webinar on March 6 to address member questions. Register for the webinar here.

Missed the initial webinar? The recording can be found in NCAN's Webinar Archives

Any further questions can be directed to Member Services Associate Jamese B. Carrell at carrellj@collegeaccess.org.