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Matriculation Rates Declining? Nudge Your Students With Texting

by Paige Roosien | June 13, 2018
Matriculation Rates Declining? Nudge Your Students With Texting

Last week, we talked about college persistence rates. As a reminder, the persistence rate is the percentage of students who enroll in a second year at a higher ed institution. This week, we're talking about college matriculation rates. The matriculation rate is the percentage of students who enroll in a college or university after graduating from high school.

How to increase matriculation rates

Matriculation rates can be heavily influenced by summer melt. Summer melt occurs when high school graduates intend to attend college in the fall, but for various reasons do not. One main reason why these students are failing to enroll in college is that they lack the guidance to do so. Once students graduate from high school, they often lose access to their high school counselors. Further, these students may not know about supports on the campuses of the colleges they’re considering attending. This leaves students feeling stranded without support.

With this in mind, researchers set out to discover the link between providing recent high school graduates with support and encouragement during the summer months and college matriculation rates. In 2013, Dr. Benjamin Castleman and Dr. Lindsay Page conducted a study to see if personalized text messages could nudge students to college, increasing matriculation rates.

Drs. Castleman and Page used Signal Vine to test the impact of text nudges on matriculation. Partnering with uAspire, Mastery Charter Schools, and the Dallas Independent School District, the team sent text nudges to recent high school graduates and their families in Dallas, Boston, and Philadelphia. The messages included reminders and information about enrollment, orientation, housing, and financial aid award letters. Students could text back to communicate directly with a college advisor.


Overall, the intervention helped more students enroll in and attend college directly after high school. High school graduates were 14% more likely to matriculate immediately to a two-year college after the texting intervention.

Evidently, enrollment increases were highest for low-income students who qualified for free or reduced-price lunch. Further, the intervention benefitted other groups. Students who had not yet completed the FAFSA at the time of the intervention were more likely to matriculate by 20 percentage points. Students without specific plans after high school were 6 percentage points more likely to matriculate if they were part of the intervention.

matriculation rates

Personalized text messaging is an effective way to decrease summer melt and increase matriculation rates. Furthermore, the results are proof that communicating with students the way they want works best for everyone.

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