Eastern Ohio Education Partnership: Increase FAFSA Completion
Eastern Ohio Education Partnership (EOEP) is a network of organizations committed to providing children with a quality education. One of EOEP’s goals for their postsecondary work is to decrease the gap between FAFSA completion and matriculation by 5% by 2020 in local target school districts. EOEP works toward this goal by providing strategic text messages to high school seniors and first-year college students a minimum of twice per week, especially during the summer between high school and college. Eastern Ohio Education Partnership uses Signal Vine to reduce the gap between FAFSA submissions and matriculation.
In partnership with local school districts, EOEP discovered a gap when they looked at the data on how many students were taking the ACT, completing the FAFSA, and matriculating to college. Students were completing the steps that indicate a plan to attend college in the fall, including taking the ACT and submitting the FAFSA but were matriculating at a significantly lower rate. After researching evidence-based strategies to address this gap, EOEP partnered with Signal Vine to implement a texting program that not only uncovers the specific reasons why some students are not matriculating, but also provides an e-mentoring service to send informational reminder texts to help guide students into and through their first year of college.
EOEP partners with local school districts where they present the district’s high school seniors with information about joining the text messaging program. Recent graduates have been recruited to help give some of the presentations because staff find that high school seniors are more receptive to the program when it’s explained by a peer. During the presentations, EOEP collects student cell phone numbers and consent by administering a short online survey. In the future, EOEP will add an option for students to opt-in by texting the program phone number and answering a series of questions via text message.
Staff at EOEP put together a week-by-week schedule of topics to text students about. The topics and timing of text messages are based on upcoming important deadlines (FAFSA, ACT registration, college applications, etc.). The Network Action Team Manager at EOEP is responsible for responding to student text messages. When outgoing text messages to students are scheduled, the Manager blocks off time on her calendar and makes herself available to reply to any text message responses that students may send. When outgoing texts are not Connecting with Students at Eastern Ohio Education Partnership scheduled for the day, EOEP’s Network Action Team Manager turns on her Signal Vine notifications to alert her as to when there are unread text messages in her inbox.
EOEP has noticed certain texting trends now that the program is well-established. The most common questions students text about are related to application requirements, important dates and deadlines for events like registration and orientation, and financial aid resources. Students are most receptive to texts that contain short questions that require a simple “yes” or “no” response. Students have texted EOEP looking for help with barriers that they have faced in getting to college. Some of these barriers have included transportation issues and admissions requirements.
In one particular example, after receiving her ACT scores a student realized that her score was not high enough for admissions into her first college choice. EOEP provided the student with information on other options locally where the student could start their college career without needing a minimum ACT score. The student said that this wasn’t the path that she had envisioned, but she knew that it was the path that she needed to take to reach her goals. Students also feel comfortable texting EOEP with questions that aren’t tied to a deadline or requirement.
For example, one student texted EOEP to ask what he should and shouldn’t bring to his first day of college classes. He was used to getting a school supply list at the beginning of each school year and wasn’t sure how to prepare for his first day of college without that information. After texting with EOEP staff, the student felt more comfortable and prepared to start his first semester of college. When creating the schedule of messages, EOEP staff are mindful of the days and times they’re sending text messages. High school seniors receive messages shortly after the school day is over, rather than during the school day. Students don’t receive text messages until mid-morning during the summer, giving them more time to sleep in.
EOEP began texting with students in two local school districts in 2016 and based on the success of the texting program, they expanded to three local school districts in 2017. EOEP has plans to expand to five local school districts in 2018. By offering support, and providing resources to students through these text messages, EOEP is moving towards their goal of improving local matriculation and persistence rates by 2020.
We have had great success in reaching high school graduates throughout the summer & answering questions their questions that arise regarding the college enrollment process. Signal Vine's platform has made the texting process very simple, and I personally love that they added the app that allows you to send texts from your mobile device.
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