College Foundation of West Virginia sees promising early results in providing college counseling through text messaging


Charleston, W.Va. – During a meeting of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission held today, state officials announced that a pilot project to provide college counseling through text messaging is yielding encouraging results. The project, which is part of the Commission’s statewide College Foundation of West Virginia (CFWV) outreach initiative, provides students with a series of text message reminders to help them succeed in college. Students can text back anytime to receive free assistance from a counselor. 

Dr. Ben Castleman and Katharine Meyer, researchers from the University of Virginia, recently released a working paper outlining early results from the effort. Their analysis indicates that students from the high school class of 2014 who received the text reminders attempted a higher number of course credits and completed more credits and courses during their first year of college. 

“The text messaging project is showing great promise as an innovative and low-cost method for boosting course enrollment and college retention rates,” Dr. Paul Hill, Chancellor of the Commission, said. “As we strive to meet our goal of doubling the number of degrees we produce by 2025, we will look to creative strategies like this to ensure that more of our students graduate on time.”

Although the analysts cautioned that limitations within the research design prevent them from assigning the text messages as the definite cause for student gains, they noted that they were able to rule out other common factors such as students’ high school grade point averages, family income, and college entrance exam scores. 

Dr. Castleman, who has pioneered much of the research in using text messages to improve educational outcomes, said the study breaks new ground. 

“To my knowledge, this paper provides the first suggestive evidence that low-touch interventions, including text-messaging, conducted through students’ first year of college can lead to improvements in students’ academic performance in college,” Dr. Castleman said. “We look forward to further examining CFWV’s work in this arena and are hopeful that additional positive trends will continue to emerge.” 

This October, CFWV will begin its fourth text messaging campaign. Funding for the service is provided through a grant from the Kresge Foundation  a private philanthropic organization headquartered in Michigan. Bluefield State College, Concord University, Fairmont State University, Marshall University, Shepherd University, Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College, West Virginia Northern Community College and West Virginia State University are partners in the project. 

Messages guide students through the processes of applying for financial aid, registering and preparing for college and connecting with resources and advisors once they arrive on campus. Any student who is planning to attend college for the first-time in the fall of 2017 can sign up to receive the alerts by visiting the state’s free college-planning resource, www.cfwv.com 

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Media note: The University of Virginia working paper can be viewed at this link: http://curry.virginia.edu/uploads/resourceLibrary/43_West_Virginia_College_Success_Nudges.pdf