Study: Personalized Text Messages Boost STEM Student Persistence

In a randomized trial last summer, community college students in STEM fields who received personalized text message "nudges" to keep them on track stayed in school at a rate 10 percentage points higher than those who did not receive nudges. The study, a joint effort by Jobs for the Future (JFF) and Persistence Plus, followed about 2,000 students at four U.S. community colleges to gauge the impact of text message communications on college completion and student success.

More than two-thirds of associate degree candidates in STEM fields do not complete their studies, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Half of those students switch to a non-STEM major and the other half leave college without earning a degree. The Nudging to STEM Success initiative launched last summer with funding from the Helmsley Charitable Trust, with the goal to build student success rates, both generally and particularly in STEM fields.

"The initial results are very encouraging," said Maria Flynn, president and CEO of JFF, in a statement. "Through the use of personal, contextualized communications via text messages, students are more empowered to complete their degrees, colleges experience higher success rates, and STEM employers ultimately benefit with a more skilled workforce. We look forward to expanding impact and scale with Persistence Plus as we continue to partner in this work."

The colleges — Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, OH, Lorain County Community College in Elyria, OH, Stark State College in North Canton, OH, and John Tyler Community College in Chester, VA — have now expanded their use of nudges to more than 10,000 students. Students report that the nudges have "helped them improve their time management, access resources like financial aid renewal, and feel more connected to their college," according to a news announcement.

"We are tremendously excited that supporting our students with nudges is already making a measurable impact on student success rates, particularly in the STEM pathways that lead to family-supporting careers and are critical to our region's economic growth," said Marcia Ballinger, president of Lorain County Community College, in a statement. "These promising early results are prompting us to examine how to integrate nudging more deeply into our persistence and completion work."

Fore more information on the Nudging to STEM Success initiative, go to the JFF site.

About the Author

About the author: Rhea Kelly is executive editor for Campus Technology. She can be reached at rkelly@1105media.com.