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Higher Ed Texting: Does it Work for Students?

by Rachel Hicks | July 11, 2019
Higher Ed Texting: Does it Work for Students?

One challenge for higher ed pros is keeping up with trends among students. What students preferred last year – or even last semester – may not be what new students value. As a result, this can leave many higher ed pros feeling lost on keeping up with what today’s students want from their college.

One seemingly constant variable within recent generations is their communication preferences. Members of Gen Z (born between 1997 – 2012) and millennials (born between 1981-1996) tend to prefer digital communication. With the age ranges of these groups encompassing people ages 7 to 38 as of 2019, it’s likely many – if not most – college students today identify as being a member of one of these two generations. This is why their communication preferences affect all higher ed pros.

With that said, let’s dive right into these preferences.

Digital communication

Digital communication can mean a lot of things. Some think of emails while others assume texting. According to many studies and surveys, the form of digital communication preferred by today’s college students is texting.

LivePerson conducted a survey with 4,000 people who are members of the Gen Z or millennial generation. Nearly 75 percent of respondents reported that they prefer communicating via text message rather than through other means. That is a massive chunk of students! Forbes describes a major reason why younger people prefer texting:

They default to whichever communication method will help them complete their to-do list as efficiently as possible—a priority that is reflected in how they communicate more generally.

This is exactly why texting in higher ed makes sense. Younger students want to be able to complete their to-do lists quickly and correctly. Nudging students to complete tasks via text is not only effective, but it’s preferred among today’s students and many educators alike.

Effectiveness of texting in higher ed

We’ve seen time and time again the effectiveness of texting in higher ed. (In fact, we quite literally wrote the book on it.) Researchers have provided compelling evidence that nudging students via text message toward good academic outcomes works. Also, we've seen the proof through conversations with our customers. There are so many instances of great outcomes of texting in higher ed, but we’d like to talk about two specific cases.

The first case shows that texting can help improve matriculation rates. Doctors Ben Castleman and Lindsay Page used Signal Vine to see if recent high school graduates were more likely to matriculate to college in the fall if they received texts in the summer. Students who received texts were 14% more likely to matriculate to a two-year college that fall. Drs. Castleman and Page also noted a 6 percentage point increase in matriculation among students with no college plans. That's pretty awesome.

The second study sought to discover if there is a link between a texting intervention and students who persist through college. This study focused on financial aid, as students enrolled at a community college who had a good first year of college were three times less likely to refile the FAFSA than their counterparts at four-year institutions.

Researchers studied whether financial aid text nudges helped community college students persist to their second year of college. Astonishingly, these students who received texts were 12 percentage points more likely to enroll – and stay enrolled – in their second year of college. Similarly, these same students were 14 percentage points more likely to continue to the spring semester of their sophomore year. Clearly, the intervention worked, showing the unique value in text nudges.

Student and staff perceptions

All of this means nothing if students and staff aren’t on board with texting. We’ve already discussed student perceptions on a broad scale. However, hearing from students who have interacted with staff via Signal Vine provides the most compelling evidence.

Here is some of our favorite feedback from students and staff. (Thanks to our partners for sending the praise they’ve received from students our way!)

“I appreciate every message that I have received from NCC [Norwalk Community College] because they were all very helpful. They helped me apply and I was able to complete everything on time.”


“[Texting] has helped me a lot to know about important or helpful stuff going on in school. Whenever I have a question about my classes, I can ask through messages with no need of going to school or calling the school offices for information.”


“I love this new texting fundraising! Much better to connect than by phone calls for our generation. ☺” – 2007 University of Pittsburgh Alumni


Texting has opened more doors for engaging with students than any other channel we've used. Being able to communicate with students in their preferred form of communication is a huge advantage.” – Southwestern Michigan College staff member Mike O’Brien


“Texting lets an organization like ours - one that graduates 1,000 kids per year - scale our postsecondary support, and Signal Vine’s allowances for emojis and GIFs enables a more personalized support that engages millennials in very real ways.” – The Urban Assembly staff member Stephanie Fiorelli


“Partnering with Signal Vine has expanded and transformed the way we provide high-quality support to our students! [It] allows us to meet students where they are – on their phones – with ongoing, personalized communication. Their platform is easy and efficient to use, enabling me to stretch limited staff resources to serve thousands more students in a personal and high-quality way, especially those in postsecondary programs located all over the country.” – uAspire president Erin Cox


“Signal Vine reinforces what we already knew: texting students is the most effective way to reach them.” – Minnesota Office of Higher Education staff member Kathleen Klima

Not to brag...

…but we could go on and on…but you catch the drift. Students and staff members alike prefer texting, making it a great form of outreach for today's dynamic students.

How is nudge technology being used in higher education?
How is nudge technology being used in higher education?
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