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Monday, February 26, 2018

Texted ‘Nudges’ Keep STEM Majors on Track

According to a 2013 study by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, more than two-thirds of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) associate’s degree candidates fail to complete their studies, with about half of those switching to a non-STEM major and the other half leaving without obtaining any degree or certification. Overall, fewer than 30% of community college students complete their program in three years.

Sometimes, all it may take is a nudge to keep such students on track and on time.

A trial involving almost 2,000 STEM students at four community colleges over the summer of 2017 found that those who received personalized text-message “nudges” returned for the fall term at a rate 10% higher than a control group that didn’t receive the messages.

The nudges, created and delivered by Persistence Plus LLC, were designed to help students manage their time better, access resources for registration and financial-aid renewal, and increase their sense of connection to the school.

The initiative was a joint effort by Persistence Plus and Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit that develops programs and policies to improve college readiness and career success for underserved populations in the U.S. The organizations chose STEM majors to address the high attrition rates in those fields, and community colleges because two-year programs produce more than half of all STEM degree-holders, according to The Brookings Institution.

“In an era where STEM knowledge matters more than ever,” Persistence Plus President Jill Frankfort said in a statement, “we are thrilled that our behavioral nudging model is helping community college students interested in STEM make greater progress to a degree.”

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