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School is out, mortarboards and tassels fly and recent high school graduates anxiously await their transition to post-secondary education. This should be a time for celebration. Unfortunately, approximately “1 in 5 [of these] college bound students fail to the matriculate in the fall.” This phenomenon is referred to as “Summer Melt” and while it affects all students, it most directly impacts first generation, low-income, and students of color. In order to combat this melt, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education (OHE) created a program called Summer Nudging.
Why do students melt? Financing college and covering gaps between financial aid and cost of tuition is still the primary factor. However, compounding the already challenging task of completing financial aid and other forms, many students lack resources and assistance. They must face these tasks alone, in addition to summer job responsibilities, arranging transportation, housing, orientation, and registering for classes. With all of these daunting steps, numerous Minnesotan students are melting away and not attending the college of their choice, of which they were accepted, in the fall.
The idea for OHE’s Summer Nudging program came from a Harvard study of the same name, which found that “an automated and personalized text messaging campaign to remind students of required college tasks substantially increased college enrollment….” In other words, gentle reminders via text messages, or “nudges,” throughout the summer will help these at risk student populations successfully persevere onto post-secondary education. All college bound Minnesotan students are encouraged to sign up. Students are often connected to the Summer Nudging program through their high school counselor or college and career center staff.
The nudges are focused on understanding financial aid and institution specific forms, preparing for orientation, communicating with their campus and registering for their first classes. Students only receive about fifteen nudges a summer and the door is always open for more communication or deeper discussion about students’ needs entering their post-secondary experience.
OHE’s Summer Nudging was featured in the August 15th, 2013 Star Tribune. As well as Dr. Benjamin Castleman’s work on the subject, Summer Melt: Supporting Low-Income Students Through the Transition to College.
This summer, the OHE staff is working with Minnesota high school graduates from all around Minnesota. Students have signed up from Wellstone International High School, Roseville Area High School, Saint Francis High School, Colombia Heights High School, Riverland Community College, Moorhead High School, Washington High School, Coon Rapids High School, South Education Center Alternative, St. Olaf TRiO, and Roosevelt High School.
The Minnesota Office of Higher Education hopes to make the opt-in process simpler for Minnesotan students. So, all Minnesotan high school graduates can have the opportunity to sign up for Summer Nudging. One plan for the future is to start the program with communication in February when students are beginning to receive their acceptance letters and FAFSA forms, in order to continue connecting with students into the summer months. We will continue to work on our inclusion of parents and guardians in the nudges. Hopefully, both parties will be able to sign up to receive the nudges. Currently, the nudges are available in English and we will be working to offer them in Spanish in the future.
For more information or for questions about Summer Nudging, please contact Kat Klima at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651) 341-6881 or Jen Fox at email@example.com or (651) 259-3971. You can also follow us on Twitter at @MNSummerNudging or Facebook at http://bitly.com/1T8jflG.