Colleges use texting to tackle summer melt
- Growing efforts to recruit students from disadvantaged backgrounds is renewing attention around the longtime issue of summer melt, which affects low-income students disproportionally, The Washington Post reported.
- Harvard University researchers in 2013 found that 10% to 20% of high school students in Boston headed for college did not enroll, with higher rates among low-income students. In addition to financial hurdles, loss of support among high school teachers and mentors after graduation is a critical factor.
- Colleges are acknowledging they can't afford to lose touch with these students during the summer. To make up for the loss of mentorship, they and other groups have responded with texting campaigns to help guide incoming students through the final steps to attendance, such as financial aid and registration, and remind them of important deadlines.
Understanding the data on summer melt rates can help institutions improve their approach to serving low-income and first-generation students who often feel disconnected from campus culture.
Georgia State University President Mark Becker said during a panel session at the 2018 American Council on Education Conference that higher education institutions tend to evaluate problems without the use of data. College presidents can change that trend by learning to embrace data, reorganizing the institution if needed, and making data collection and evaluation a priority on campus.
Rather than implement randomized trials, Scott Pulsipher, president of Western Governors University, said during the panel that he recommends focusing on initiatives that can improve student success. This requires institutions to identify the types of data they need to prove that their program is working. Training faculty and other campus leaders on how to assess data on such initiatives is also critical.
Texting programs such as those cited by The Post are proving effective in many cases. George State recorded a 20% lower summer melt rate among students who received messages from its Pounce chatbot as compared to a control group. The school launched Pounce in 2016 to help keep incoming students on track over the summer.