While financial aid can play a role in a student’s success, other behavioral factors can play a significant a role in enrollment and completion, ideas42 said in a webinar on Thursday.
Ideas42 is a non-profit group that uses behavioral sciences to create solutions for real-world problems. The webinar, “Behavioral Insights and Interventions in Postsecondary Education,” highlighted ongoing work the group is doing to address the low national completion rate by examining enrollment and retention at two schools – LaGuardia Community College (LLC) in New York and San Francisco State University (SFSU).
During the webinar, ideas42 presenters said they were surprised that financial aid did not play a larger role in improving enrollment and retention rates at the schools, where their respective financial aid offices work effectively with students who have financial challenges.
The presenters noted that students cited various behavior-based indicators as challenges to their success, such as a lack of feeling included on campus or little positive feedback on academic progress.
For example, ideas42 said a large number of students fail to complete enrollment at LaGuardia Community College because of five “behavioral bottlenecks”:
Through its project, ideas42 is attempting to improve the enrollment rate by simplifying the overall enrollment process and creating a more positive enrollment environment to get students to identify as part of the college’s community. The group has worked with the college to improve their email communication for its Spring 2015 students, making the messages easier to read and increasing the prominence of certain information like links to sign up for testing times or checklists to adhere to. The messaging has also been tweaked to make the students feel as if they are already a part of the college’s community, despite not having fully enrolled.
Ideas42 is also working on improving the retention rate at San Francisco State University (SFSU), where 18 percent of freshmen do not return to the school for their sophomore year and many do not re-enroll at another school at all. Through its research with the students, ideas42 discovered that the issue of student retention centered on three bottlenecks:
The school and ideas42 are working to address this problem creating a video that reframes how students view the challenges of going to college, making them more of a collective experience all college students encounter rather than an individual issue. The video is followed up with a survey students complete with questions that reinforce their ability to set goals and encourage campus involvement.
SFSU is also improving its messages to students in email and text messaging to encourage campus involvement and has seen an email open-rate of 60 percent or higher. They have also seen a 95 percent completion rate for the video and survey.
Ideas42 will continue testing at both colleges and rack the results through 2015.
Publication Date: 10/24/2014