Reducing Summer Melt and Improving College Persistence: Testing the Effectiveness of a Light-touch Text Messaging Intervention

College students sitting in a hallway

Text messaging is a popular and inexpensive strategy for reaching out to college-going students who may have limited access to the information in their schools and communities. While research findings tend to confirm that such interventions can induce larger percentages of low-income students to enter college, recent data shows limited evidence of such campaigns boosting rates of subsequent college degree attainment. This project will conceptually replicate and test whether Castleman and Page's “summer melt” text messaging intervention increases college enrollment, persistence, and credential attainment for college-intending seniors at high-poverty high schools when implemented at scale in routine educational settings. Researchers will also test a persistence enhancement that will provide additional supports during the first year of college.

The research team will rigorously test whether a well-designed campaign targeted to low-income students during their senior year of high school can increase their college enrollment and subsequent success. The research team will als

o test whether an extension of the campaign (through the first year of college) can prevent students from dropping out, boosting rates of persistence and degree attainment beyond their peers who receive only the summer melt intervention.

During the first year of the project, the research team will randomly assign students to the treatment and control conditions and begin the summer melt intervention at high schools in early spring 2020. The team will continue the intervention through expected matriculation in fall 2020. Once students have matriculated, the team will redraw random samples to select students for the intervention and enhancement, repeating the process for the next cohort and tracking all students through spring 2024.  During the third through fifth years of the project, the team will share its findings with policymakers and administrators in the three participating states, share its findings more broadly with policymakers and practitioners across the country, and present its findings to research audiences.