Signal Vine Blog: Text Me Back

How to Identify and Retain At-Risk Students with Text Messaging

Posted by Miranda Palter on February 25, 2016
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Student retention is one of the most difficult tasks higher education institutions face in today’s competitive, information-heavy environment. It’s also one of the most important tasks, because retaining students improves long-term outcomes for both students and institutions.

The first step to any successful student retention strategy is identifying those students who are at risk of dropping out of college. There’s no single warning sign that perfectly predicts if a student will drop out; in fact, there are usually multiple factors at play. These can include:

  • Low scores on admissions tests or course placement tests
  • Unrealistic course load based on a student's high school achievements
  • Frequent absences
  • Poor performance on early assignments
  • Disengagement from the institution, such as failing to meet with advisors or not registering for classes on time

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One great way to notice these warning signs also happens to be a great way to address them: text messaging! Regular check-ins via text message allow staff to monitor students’ progress and then nudge them to complete unfinished tasks or set up advising meeting. Simply having that one-on-one connection with someone at the school creates stronger ties between the student and the institution. 

Since there are so many potential sources of at-risk behavior, the best approach to retaining at-risk students is one that comprehensively addresses multiple risk factors. Texting enables institutions to reach at-risk students across all departments and programs; it’s the one communication method that can tie all retention strategies together. 

Here are three examples of retention strategies that can be enhanced with text messaging:

  • First-Year Experience programs target at-risk students early on in their college experiences to connect them to peers, advisors, and resources. Texting with peer mentors in the first year of college promotes stronger, more meaningful relationships within the institution. 
  • Because financial burdens are often a reason for dropping out, improving access to information about scholarships and loans via text message is an effective way to reduce financial stress and provide students with the resources they need to afford higher education.
  • Academic resources, such as advisors, tutors, and writing centers, can use text messaging to inform students of upcoming appointments and workshops, while also providing a direct connection to experienced advisors. 

Want to learn more about the effectiveness of text messaging retention?  Download persistence research here!

Topics: Retention, Higher Education, Research

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