|Principal Investigator:||Heath J. Prince, PhD (RMC) and Christopher N. Avery (Harvard)|
|Sponsor(s):||Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Harvard University|
|Project Duration:||July 2014 – June 2017
|Description:||This project includes two parts: the first focuses on digital messaging to improve FAFSA completion and the second focuses on digital messaging on the entire college application process.
Successful completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a key milestone on the pathway to college for many US students. Yet, the complexity of the FAFSA completion process creates barriers to college access and success particularly for students from low-income backgrounds and those who would be the first in their family to attend college. For example, college-intending students may fail to file their FAFSA at all, may delay filing and miss priority deadlines, or may fail to successfully complete steps in the income verification process, if required. In this project, we will marry data available through Apply TX on individual students’ FAFSA completion status, local FAFSA completion supports, and text messaging as a low-cost and effective means of communication to provide students and families with targeted information about the FAFSA and their status in the FAFSA completion process and to connect them with additional FAFSA support when needed. We will implement this project in selected high schools during the 2014-2015 academic year. Outreach will focus on Class of 2015 high school seniors.
The second part of this project will follow a similar structure but will broaden the scope of the text-based outreach. In particular, we will send text messages to students beginning in their junior year of high school and continuing through the summer after their senior year in high school. The goal of the messages is threefold: (1) to provide college and financial aid information in a simplified, digestible manner; (2) to deliver timely reminders of important application and financial aid tasks; and (3) to provide students with guidance on how to successfully complete these tasks.
By starting outreach early in the college admissions timeline, we will be able to message students about a broad range of college-related tasks, including college entrance exam registration and test taking, college applications, FAFSA completion, and pre-matriculation college transition tasks (e.g., signing master promissory notes).