Many worry that the popularity of text messaging among young people is a nuisance and a distraction, keeping adolescents and young adults from succeeding in school and at work. However, when applied right, texting might have a positive impact on young people's performance in higher education. A text messaging initiative launched by West Virginia's Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC) might be keeping college-bound students on track and promoting better performance at the college level.
In recent years, HEPC launched an SMS subscription service where college-bound high school seniors can sign up to receive automated mass texts related to their college plans. The service is accessible to seniors on the College Foundation of West Virginia's website, where teens can click a link to subscribe. The texts begin in January of a student's senior year, and continue into college.
The text messages offer both important information as well as tips, providing seniors with information about scholarships available to them, applications, and enrollment, and reminding them of pertinent deadlines. As students move on to college, the texts they receive offer advice about faculty advisors and the recommended number of credit hours. Some universities, such as Marshall University, have teamed up with HEPC to offer texts specific to their institution through the program. Students can also ask questions using HEPC's text line.
Research out of the University of Virginia shows that students who signed up to receive the HEPC texts enrolled in and successfully completed more college credits than their peers who did not participate in the program. While this is merely a correlation, and not proof that the text line is an effective way to increase college enrollment and success, it is a promising finding that should encourage more West Virginia young adults to participate in the texting program.
This finding also suggests that similar programs across states and universities, or even at the national level, may bolster college enrollment and success in larger populations. Mass text messages could be a powerful model for education initiatives nationwide; text messaging is an affordable and easy way to reach out to young people, and a medium to which most young adults are likely to be receptive.
This holds especially true in low-income communities. Not only are people in low-income communities more likely to text more frequently, but they are less likely to have access to college application and preparedness resources and information. A text message program like HEPC's can be used on a broader scale to reach low-income youth who might otherwise be shortchanged in the college process or led to believe that college cannot be affordable or feasible for them. Similar initiatives could even be started at younger ages, preparing young people to think about and prepare for college throughout high school.
While texting may be a distraction for many young people, it seems that, when applied right, it can encourage teens to engage in better college preparedness habits. This tactic appears especially promising for ensuring young people from lower income communities more equal access to college readiness information and resources.
About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage,
Inc. a software company for communication software solutions.