iMentor, with funding from the Citi Foundation and Heckscher Foundation, committed to designing and implementing a text-message campaign targeting college-bound students in low-income communities that will provide them with information about matriculation at their chosen college. Beginning in June 2013, the summer after high school graduation, 600 students in the iMentor program in New York City will receive a series of text messages for 10 weeks about important college-related tasks and deadlines that will empower them to successfully enroll in and transition to college in Fall 2013. As part of the campaign, each student's mentor will also receive text messages about their mentee's matriculation requirements and suggestions on how to support them in the process. Students who are part of the initiative are graduates from nine of iMentor's partner high schools in New York City.
iMentor will work with researchers, colleges, and nonprofit partners to develop a series of college matriculation guides that aggregate information about enrollment milestones and deadlines for 50 colleges. These guides will be shared with students and their mentors to help students successfully transition from high school to college. The content of the guides and text messaging campaign will be created in partnership with Harvard researchers Benjamin Castleman and Lindsay Page. Partners include Urban Assembly, Bottom Line, Goddard Riverside, GradNYC, CUNY - At Home in College, and New Settlement Apartments. In June 2013, the text message content, matriculation guides, and program model will be shared with all iMentor partnering organizations to ensure more students have access to the resources created through the project.
In October of 2013, iMentor will convene all partners and funders in the project, and other college access organizations, at a meeting to review the results of the summer texting campaign, assess the content of the matriculation guides, and develop strategies to expand the project.
June 15, 2013: Work in partnership with researchers and nonprofit partners to develop matriculation guides to 50 colleges across the country. Write text messages targeting students and mentors that reflect the information and deadlines in the matriculation guides. Share all final text message content, matriculation guides, and program model with partners.
June 24, 2013: Launch text messaging campaign by sending first texts to students and mentors.
September 2, 2013: Complete text messaging campaign.
Aug-Sept 2013: Review text messaging and enrollment data for all students.
October 2013: Convene all partners and other college access organizations to review campaign results and create plan to improve and expand in the future.
The single best pathway to upward mobility for youth in low-income communities is increasing their access to educational opportunities. Low-income students, however, consistently enter, persist, and graduate from college at dramatically lower rates than their peers. In 2007, a Pell Institute study found that while 73 percent of students from the top income quartile graduated from college, only 12 percent of students from the bottom income quartile reached the same milestone.
One of the reasons for this graduation gap is that many students from low-income communities are simply not showing up for college - even when they've been accepted. Research shows that anywhere from 10 percent - 40 percent of low-income and first-generation college students who graduate from high school with the intention of enrolling in college change their plans over the summer, often due to logistical, financial, or personal issues. The combination of insufficient "college knowledge" with the highly idiosyncratic nature of each student's obstacles to college enrollment and completion makes this population of students a complicated one to support.
Harvard University's Benjamin Castleman and Lindsay Page, however, found that offering college-intending graduates just two to three hours of additional summer support in the college matriculation process increased enrollment by three to four percentage points overall, and eight percentage points among low-income students. They conducted a national pilot using text messages to help students with the college matriculation process. These texts were customized to each student's intended institution, reminding them of key summer tasks to complete. These texts proved effective both in terms of cost and the number of students who successfully matriculated. Inspired by their results, iMentor is seeking to create a program model and tools that will allow community-based organizations to replicate their success across the country. iMentor builds mentoring relationships that empower students in low-income communities to graduate high school, succeed in college, and achieve their ambitions.