Dallas County Promise: Using Text Nudges for Student Success
Dallas County Promise is an alliance of school districts, colleges, universities, employers, and communities. These entities help more Dallas County students complete college and begin careers. The program is a last dollar scholarship created to remove financial barriers to college and transform local student perspectives on college access. Also, Dallas County Promise provides critical support services, such as success coaches, to help area students from low-income and first-generation households to transition to high school, college, and beyond.
In 2017, Dallas County Promise worked with Signal Vine to begin texting students. Staff texted 9,300 seniors at 31 high schools in the fall of 2017. The next cohort included 43 high schools and 16,500 seniors. Finally, cohort three is expected to include 57 high schools and more than 22,000 seniors.
Dallas County Promise staff realized they were struggling to capture the attention of high school students. First, they considered using email and phone calls for outreach. However, they realized that students simply were not checking emails or answering phone calls. As staff tried to gather students’ email addresses, students frequently reported that their email addresses had changed. As a result, communication was inconsistent.
While students’ email addresses changed, their phone numbers stayed the same. With this in mind, staff decided to implement the Signal Vine texting platform.
Staff chose to implement a strategy involving text nudges for its students to get them to work toward successful outcomes. Staff and students both agreed that text nudges were the preferred way to let students know that they needed to take action. In person, students were more reserved. Staff noticed that giving students tasks to complete in person made students react as though they were being confronted. In contrast, text nudges allowed staff to keep students on track while eliminating the sense of confrontation that students were feeling when approached in person. Texting put students in control of the conversation.
Staff also use the Signal Vine platform to coordinate scholarship programs for a number of college and university partners. One more use of the platform for staff is to increase the program’s survey responses to gain insights on students’ career interests to better support students reach their goals.
With these strategies in place, Dallas County Promise staff armed student success coaches with the Signal Vine platform. From there, student success coaches reached out to their assigned students to provide them with the help they needed. Additionally, representatives from partner colleges and universities accessed Signal Vine to provide students with admissions support.
One of the biggest results the Dallas County Promise team noticed was a spike in event participation, both among students and staff. Both were more eager to communicate with each other through text, fostering a stronger relationship for in-person meetings. Further, during a town hall meeting for Dallas County Promise participants, students overwhelmingly agreed that they preferred to be texted versus called or emailed.
Also, staff noted that Signal Vine helped them to avoid miscommunicating with students. The Signal Vine platform allowed for Dallas County Promise staff to connect students directly to their colleges and universities of interest. As a result, institution staff communicated directly with students to guide them throughout the admissions and enrollment processes.
The use of the Signal Vine platform helped Dallas County Promise staff better connect students to the resources they needed. Students were eager to reach out to staff via text when they needed assistance. For this reason, Dallas County Promise staff had a better idea of which resources students needed most. This helped the program improve its resources and expand departments that students most often relied on, such as improving mental health counseling services and hosting more financial aid nights geared toward parents.
As a result of connecting students to the right resources, Dallas County Promise has observed a 7 percent increase in financial aid submissions for two consecutive years. Further, staff noted a 6 percent increase in college enrollment.
Texting is a necessary component to connecting today's college-bound students to the resources they need to get them to the next step.
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