WVHEPC: Guiding Rural Students Through the First Year of College
The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (the Commission) develops and oversees a public policy agenda for West Virginia’s four-year colleges and universities. The Commission works closely with institutions statewide to help them accomplish their respective missions. Also, the Commission manages the state’s free college- and career-planning portal known as the College Foundation of West Virginia (CFWV). CFWV houses the state’s Txt 4 Success initiative, which relies on the Signal Vine platform for outreach efforts.
One of West Virginia’s unique challenges was reaching students who live in the state’s most rural areas. Staff found that many of these students lack internet connections at home. However, they often use their cellphones wherever they have the connectivity to do so. With this knowledge, staff considered texting a possible medium to capture these students.
In 2014, CFWV staff worked with Signal Vine to develop a pilot texting project focusing on the state’s GEAR UP population. The results of this pilot project proved that texting students worked. As a result, CFWV staff decided to scale the initiative statewide, offering college guidance via text message to all college-bound students. While some of the texts serve as general reminders of key deadlines, others simply serve as check-ins to make sure that students’ college questions are answered.
Now, CFWV staff partner with college representatives from 10 of the state’s public two- and four-year colleges and universities to provide college-specific advising via text message. Institutional staff can use the Signal Vine platform to send out reminders and follow up with students to ensure they are on the right track to enrolling in and persisting through the first year of college.
The results have proven texting a successful form of outreach for rural students in West Virginia. Rural students who opt-in to receive text messages are nearly 8 percentage points more likely than their peers to persist through their first year of college. Students who come from non-rural areas are nearly 7 percentage points more likely to persist.
The class of 2019 began receiving texts in October 2018. They will continue to receive messages through their first year of college. This group of students has shown promising results in its engagement with college access advisors. Nearly half of students have responded to at least one text message. Further, students in this campaign have sent more than 8,100 text messages to college access advisors.
Txt 4 Success is meeting students where they are by utilizing the technology that is right in front of them. The numbers show that the program is working in keeping our students in college and persisting toward that degree or certificate.
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