Olympic College: Texting to Retain Students
Olympic College is based 17 miles west of Seattle, WA. The college offers associate and bachelor’s degrees as well as various professional/technical certifications. Currently, Olympic partners with various four-year institutions to offer a seamless pathway from a two-year degree to a four-year degree. The college is one of the first in the country to offer an RN to BSN program. Typically, the college enrolls 12,000 students annually, many of whom are first-generation college students.
Olympic College experienced a consistent enrollment decline spanning several years. This decline was in part due to the end of the recession. Once the recession ended, people began going back to work rather than pursuing postsecondary education. Enrollment numbers that were high during the recession fell once people began returning to work. As a result, Olympic College staff began to review resources to try and increase enrollment numbers.
First, college staff tried to conduct outreach efforts to prospects and students via email. However, they quickly found that students do not respond to emails. Shortly after, staff learned about text messaging as a solution to increase enrollment and retention numbers. While some faculty members decided to text students from their personal phones, this proved to be an ineffective solution. First, it required that instructors use their personal phones for outreach. Second, there was no high-level, central location to house students’ messages. This made it nearly impossible to form a campus-wide texting strategy.
With these challenges and trials in mind, the staff at Olympic College decided to give the Signal Vine texting platform a try.
Members of the Student Services department at Olympic College led the charge to implement Signal Vine at their institution. Staff launched a one-year pilot project to test the effectiveness of texting. During this phase, Student Services employees focused on targeting students who needed to complete various steps before being dropped from classes for nonpayment. After this pilot program proved to be effective, staff worked to implement the platform campus-wide to cover all students across all departments.
The pilot program was successful in increasing the college’s revenue. The texting initiative helped Olympic College decrease the number of students dropped for nonpayment by 100. For Olympic College, the average revenue per student is $2,800 per quarter. As a result of implementing the Signal Vine texting platform, the school secured $280,000 in revenue in one academic year that would have otherwise been lost had registered students been dropped for nonpayment.
Another result Olympic College has observed is that students are more likely to engage with staff on campus. In some instances, the text nudges lead students directly to campus. Instead of responding to a text nudge via text, students come to campus and interact with college staff to resolve any issues they are facing. Staff note that there is a consistent influx of student traffic on campus just after a text message is sent from the Signal Vine platform.
Since the original pilot program, staff have expanded the reach of texting to encompass the entire college. They now send students texts that center around financial aid, enrollment, registration reminders, tuition payment reminders, and more.
Through trial-and-error, the staff at Olympic College have gathered two main best practices concerning texting:
- If scaling texting campus-wide, be cognizant of project ownership. When first introduced to a new concept that is as large of an undertaking as campus-wide texting, some staff may be hesitant and feel the change is stressful. It’s important to respect input from staff while also letting other departments own their own programs so they can help students in their area of expertise. When the Student Services department did just this for other departments, staff became less stressed and ultimately made it to a point where they now depend on texting for student outreach.
- Be prepared for how students choose to respond to text messages – and utilize the Message Calendar feature of the Signal Vine platform. At first, staff didn’t expect students to respond to their texts by coming into their offices. This was an adjustment that staff needed to make to ensure short wait times and that students could address their issues quickly. College staff now plan around their scheduled texts on their Message Calendars to make sure they are adequately staffed just in case students choose to resolve issues on campus.
Because of Signal Vine and the ability to text our students with timely nudges, we’re helping them stay enrolled in college.
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