Panel Paper: Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Informational Framing during the College Transition

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Madison A - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jenna W. Kramer, Vanderbilt University

Technology-facilitated interventions during the summer following high school graduation have shown promise for increasing the likelihood of successful transition to postsecondary education. This study leverages an experiment to fine-tune an empirically tested intervention in a new context. In this study, I conduct a randomized control trial of roughly 18,000 college-intending class of 2017 Tennessee high school graduates to determine whether the behavioral framing of informational text messages affects the transition to college in a free community and technical college context. Students were randomized into four groups that all received informational messages, albeit in distinct behavioral frames: business as usual, in which they receive the same messages as the prior year’s informational campaign; loss aversion, which emphasizes what students will lose if they do not act; reduction of ambiguity, which provides details on the requisite steps for action and the amount of time the task will take; and peer support, which exerts normative social pressures by encouraging students to work with friends to ensure they are taking action. Preliminary results suggest that two of the frames increase the likelihood of successful completion of summer service hours roughly by roughly 1.5 percentage points relative to the business-as-usual frame. By the time of the conference, I will have the data to estimate effects on academic year outcomes, including within-year persistence. This study is the first experiment to test informational message “nudges” in support of the postsecondary transition in a free community college context and contributes to a budding literature on the relative efficacy of differential framing in informational interventions.