Working Paper: West Virginia College Success Nudges

Full Title: Can Text Message Nudges Improve Academic Outcomes in College? Evidence from a West Virginia Initiative

Full Abstract: While socioeconomic disparities in college enrollment have declined over the last decade, gaps in college completion remain pronounced by income and geography. A growing body of research investigates how informational barriers and behavioral obstacles contribute to these persistent inequalities. We investigate the association between a text messaging campaign to provide lower-income college students in West Virginia with simplified information, encouragement, and access to one-on-one advising, and their subsequent academic outcomes. This is the first study of which we are aware to examine the relationship between a low-touch, behaviorally-informed messaging campaign and lower-income, rural college students’ academic outcomes. Students participating in the texting campaign tend to complete more freshman year credits compared with similar students who did not have the opportunity to sign up for the text campaign by virtue of the high school they attended. These differences were most pronounced for low-income students and students enrolled at higher education institutions which delivered a supplemental, school-specific text message campaign throughout the first year in college, indicating colleges have an important role to play in communicating information about academic expectations, support resources, and community norms.

EdPolicyWorks Working Paper Series No. 43. April 2016.