6/14/13 - Summer Melt Program in Central Texas

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The summer following high school graduation can be a trying time for many high school graduates. Financial deadlines and other responsibilities can be overwhelming; many students who originally intend to enroll never arrive at their college campus. This drop in the share of students who intend to go to college in the spring of their senior year, but do not enroll that fall, is referred to as ‘summer melt.’ Recent studies indicate that additional support in the form of counselor meetings and/or communication to high school seniors during the summer after graduation should increase the share of students enrolling in college in the fall. A KUT News radio segment that aired on June, 13th, said the program “will provide answers and insight where parents may not be able to.” Furthermore, the segment concludes that improving college enrollment will ultimately “boost the local economy.”

Using a random assignment research design, researchers at the Ray Marshall Center (RMC) will investigate the efficacy of an innovative text messaging campaign designed to alleviate barriers associated with summer melt in four Central Texas school districts.  This project will utilize a text messaging platform to increase students’ college and financial literacy and to facilitate communication between high school seniors and school counselors the summer after graduating from high school. Text messaging is a particularly promising approach both to inform students and their parents of college tasks and to connect them to professional staff, such as high school counselors and college admissions counselors, when they need help.

An article published in the Austin-American Statesman on June, 3rd spoke to the program’s merits. “A few hours of encouragement and support over the summer can make the difference between a high school graduate going to college or not. Counselors will reach out to low-income, first-generation students and their families and will help them navigate financial aid, housing and other daunting college enrollment forms. And they will try to ease students’ anxiety about the new experience college brings.” RMC researchers will monitor the results this coming fall, observing whether there is a regional reduction in summer melt compared to previous years. In future years, researchers will also be able to measure whether the college graduation rate improves as a result of the program.

Ray Marshall Center

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