Great article this morning in the Chronicle of Higher Education on Summer Melt (link to the article). In Extension it’s not our direct mission to change the summer melt issue…but yet, my hypothesis is that Extension probably could be a significant factor in reducing summer melt.
Let me back up a bit and define summer melt. Summer melt is the term used to describe the number of youth that may apply to attend a specific institute of higher education, and then, for some reason or another, never show up on campus. Some may be first generation college attendees and be overwhelmed with the amount of paperwork, rules, deadlines etc. that are precursors to actually attending college. UNL has recently made steps to try to overcome the issues experienced by first generation college students. Others may not have a really good idea of where precisely they would like to go, or what they want to major in, and get overwhelmed by it all, or apply for multiple schools and are hanging on the option that their first choice will get back to them….and some will….however, some students throw in the towel when they don’t hear back from their first choice.
So this morning, in the Chronicle of Higher Education there was an article about how Georgia State is now using technology to help “personalize” the college bound summer before a students first year. They call their system “Pounce”, after their mascot. Their system is built upon the existing student system that maintains records about financial aid, tuition payments, housing payments etc., and sends text message reminders to students who have not yet finished tasks. So, for instance, if a student has not yet paid their housing deposit, it would send just that student a text to remind them that the due date was coming up soon…..this is different from the systems employed by many post-secondary institutions which send text messages to everyone, whether they have completed the task or not. The problem with the later is that students get overwhelmed when they receive too many communications from an institution, and then, these communications come off as impersonal. The former system, since texts are not sent to those individuals who have completed tasks, appears much more personal….because it doesn’t make mistakes by reminding you to do something that you’ve already done. Somehow the system knows what you are doing. 🙂
I suspect that Extension could aid in reducing summer melt. As members of our communities we know our kids well. We know who in the family is facilitating getting the youth to school the first year….mom, dad, aunts, uncles. And, frequently we know when a family has sent off a tuition or housing payment because they are discussing it with us because they know that we are affiliated with UNL. I would think that would be helpful in reducing summer melt.
I wonder if anyone has ever done a research project to determine is 4-H youth are less likely to become victims of summer melt than non-4-H youth? Wouldn’t that be interesting? Maybe we should be sharing more of the administrative dates with our Extension staff so they can personally help with this issue? Of course though, if I had those dates, I would probably sit down and set up a text message to go out to the youth in my area on a specific date…..ahh, without knowing what the students have done to date, I would be contributing to the overwhelming problem….except that, students in my area would see a text from me, someone they know! Hmmm, more questions…now I’m wondering if it’s the personalization factor that is the influence? If so, maybe we should be overlaying our messaging system not just with information about what has been done, but also with our 4-H database, so that current 4-Hers who enroll would receive automatic messages via their local extension office contacts? 🙂