LOSFA: Communicate Scholarships and Retain Students
The Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA) uses Signal Vine to communicate scholarship opportunities to more than 16,000 students across the state of Louisiana. Text messaging is a scalable and effective solution to the program’s extensive communication needs. Scholarship recipients are significantly more likely to retain their scholarships as a result of LOSFA’s text outreach.
LOSFA administers statewide scholarship and grant programs, the state’s 529 college savings plan, and several federally-funded student financial assistance programs. A small team is responsible for communicating information about these programs to all high school and college students in the state. Thousands of students receive scholarships through LOSFA each year. However, sending students information about scholarships through email and snail mail wasn’t working. Students forgot to renew their scholarships and became ineligible for new scholarship opportunities. As a result, students in Louisiana had to drop out of college because they couldn’t afford higher education. Challenges for LOSFA included:
- Program scope: Fewer than twenty staff members manage communications with 16,000 students. The scale of the program, along with the huge range of topics covered, makes it difficult to maintain personalized and targeted outreach.
- College persistence: LOSFA students tend to drop out of college when they lose scholarship eligibility. LOSFA needed a better way to communicate with students about scholarship requirements so that students could afford to stay in school.
LOSFA’s texting program targets high school seniors and college freshmen who are eligible for the state’s Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS). TOPS is Louisiana’s premier merit-based scholarship. Recipients must maintain at least a 2.0 GPA and earn at least 24 credit hours each year to remain eligible. Students are automatically enrolled in LOSFA’s texting program when they provide their phone number to the program. Text messages are tailored to students based on whether they’re in high school or college.
High school messages
LOSFA texts high school seniors with information and reminders about upcoming deadlines. Deadlines include ACT registration, FAFSA completion, and scholarship applications. Advisors also offer college application assistance on a one-on-one basis for students who text in for help. The goal is to help more students in the state plan for and attend college.
Most students who lose their TOPS eligibility do so in their first year of college. Early outreach is critical for students’ and LOSFA’s success. LOSFA introduces the texting program to college freshmen during the first semester. Staff inform students that they’ll receive important information about their TOPS scholarships. Students also learn that they can send questions directly to LOSFA staff for one-on-one support.
The content for the college messages focuses primarily on financial information. LOSFA staff send deadline reminders, helpful links and documents, and answers to students’ questions about financing college. Students are also alerted by text message when they’re in danger of losing their TOPS eligibility.
In its two years of using Signal Vine, LOSFA has communicated with more than 50,000 high school seniors, college freshmen, and their families. Louisiana residents now have stronger opportunities for an affordable college education. LOSFA measures student engagement and message response rates in the Signal Vine dashboard. The average engagement rate for high school seniors is extremely high: 76% of seniors in the program have texted back at least once.
The TOPS retention rate has increased significantly since LOSFA began texting reminders and alerts to college freshmen. As a result, the rate of persistence into the second year of college has also improved. Based on these successes, LOSFA continues to increase the number of students and families they support through Signal Vine text messaging.
We have found that texting through Signal Vine is the most successful means of communicating vital and timely information to both high school seniors and college freshmen.
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