While college enrollment has increased substantially over the past few decades, there are persistent enrollment and degree attainment inequalities by family income and geography.
Recognizing the unique challenges low-income students in rural areas face when accessing quality college advising, we partnered with the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission to design messages targeted at high school students across West Virginia attending GEAR UP high schools. Students were offered the opportunity to sign up for the text message program, which began during their senior year of high school and continued through the spring of their freshman year of college. This innovative partnership enabled students to receive continuous support throughout the challenging college transition, seamlessly transitioning from receiving messages and advice from high school counselors to receiving support from college advisors.
Messages addressed both financial aid deadlines (e.g., “Get your FAFSA in by April 15 to quality for more $$$ - ww.fafsa.gov”) and academic support services (e.g., “Looking for a study stop? Check out the library, it’s open 24 hours during exams.”). A few colleges supplemented the state campaign with school-specific messaging, and low-income students at those colleges who had signed up for the program completed an additional course their freshman year. The state has since expanded the messaging and invited all prospective college students across the state to sign up for the texting campaign.
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