We spoke with Gus Wales, Director of Public Information and Communications for the Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA). Learn how LOSFA is text messaging high school and college students across the state to promote college access in this week’s Q&A.
Please explain your program.
The Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistance (LOSFA) administers all Louisiana State Scholarship and Grant Programs, Louisiana’s 529 College Saving Plan, and several federal student financial assistance programs. LOSFA also provides extensive and comprehensive college access services to high school students throughout the state.
What’s the mission of LOSFA?
To promote and provide college access.
What have been some of the greatest challenges of communicating with your students?
Today’s high school and college students do not read snail mail or email. They want their written communications in short, easy to digest blurbs. They prefer to get their communications through text messaging and social media.
What has student feedback been to texting?
We have found that Signal Vine texting is the most successful means of communicating vital and timely information to both high school seniors and college freshman. The students actively engage through replies and follow up with questions by texting back to us. We have also noted that, once they have the ability to text us with questions, they begin doing so unprompted by texts from LOSFA.
What are some of the most common questions students have asked LOSFA through texting?
College freshmen regularly ask a variety of questions regarding the TOPS scholarship program, requirements, rules, etc. We introduce the platform to them during the fall semester and let them know that it is offered for a single purpose: to keep them abreast of program requirements and to answer any questions they may have regarding the program. Their questions tend to be both of a general and of a personal situation nature.
How has texting made a difference with students in the state of Louisiana?
16,000+ college freshmen participate in the Signal Vine texting effort each year. Signal Vine is one component of LOSFA’s concentrated effort to keep the maximum number of recipients eligible for their TOPS awards from their freshman to their sophomore year. Historical data has shown that most students who lose their scholarships do so in their first year of college. Signal Vine texting, in combination with frequent social media posts and TOPS retention seminars presented by LOSFA personnel at freshman orientation events have resulted in significantly higher retention numbers over the past two years.
Learn more about the program.