Ben Castleman and Sarah Turner have their ed policy research cites in NYT op-ed article on texting.
A new approach — a text-messaging campaign directed at potentially vulnerable students during the summer, customized to remind them of the deadlines set by their intended college and directing them to counseling help — can reduce summer melt at a fraction of the cost. In his book “The 160-Character Solution,” Benjamin Castleman, an education professor at the University of Virginia, details this light-touch strategy.
Using texts is a smart move. This is how teenagers communicate — nearly two-thirds of them send texts daily, far more than talk on their phones or rely on email. “Hi, Alex!” a typical text might say. “Have you chosen your courses yet? Deadline is 8/15. Need to register? tinyurl.com/courses. Need help? Text back to talk w/ an adviser.” In a pilot study that enlisted nearly 5,000 students, 72 percent of low-income students who received the message followed through and enrolled in college, compared with 66.4 percent who didn’t get this information. The cost? Less than $7 a student.
Getting this information in these students’ hands can make a world of difference, as the economists Caroline Hoxby, at Stanford, and Sarah Turner, at the University of Virginia, have shown. They tracked 40,000 seniors who scored in the top 10 percent on the SAT or ACT and most of whose families’ earnings fell in the bottom third of the income distribution. Most received packets telling them how to identify schools that matched their interests, with information about those colleges’ academic offerings and graduation rates. They also were provided with estimates of what it would actually cost them to attend a range of different schools. The control group didn’t get any of this material.