Late last month, our partners at the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice, founded by Edquity’s Chief Strategy Officer Sara Goldrick-Rab, released a report that takes a closer look at a strategy implemented at Amarillo College that has seen impressive results related to student uptake of campus resources to address basic needs. This post breaks down the key takeaways for institutions looking to help provide more students with the resources they need to persist and complete their education.
Building upon a 2018 collaboration with Amarillo College’s Advocacy and Resource Center (ARC), as a case study for a 2018 report, the Hope Center partnered with the school to explore what tactics and philosophies have been most effective in increasing awareness and use of available resources. This effort was rooted in a troubling finding: only a small number of the students who are experiencing basic needs insecurity are accessing resources currently available on campus. Could email nudges, carefully crafted to help point students toward the appropriate next step, help more students take advantage of those support systems?
What the Study Found
Using a randomized encouragement design during the 2018 and 2019 academic years, Amarillo College and the Hope Center found that gentle email reminders to target populations of students can be an effective, both in terms of cost and response, method of making students aware of ARC offerings and other campus resources. Referred to as “nudging,” this approach has been used to encourage students to complete FAFSA filings and serve as a motivational tool.
ARC’s nudge emails were thoughtfully designed to include the following elements:
Over the course of the experiment, the information collected indicated that 56% of nudged students visited the ARC at least once, compared to 22% of students who had not received nudges, and on average, nudged students visited one additional time and used two additional services.
Recommendations and Next Steps
What do these findings mean for institutions looking to boost usage of basic needs resources? Armed with the insights and outcomes of the nudging experiment, The Hope Center shares the following recommendations for others to factor in as they design similar programs for their student communities:
For those interested in learning more about The Hope Center’s recent work, their recently published report “When Care Isn’t Enough: Scaling Emergency Aid During the COVID-19 Pandemic” is available for review.