Scaling Nudge Interventions in Postsecondary Education
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
A growing body of research in postsecondary education indicates that nudge outreach campaigns that leverage insights from the behavioral sciences to encourage and remind students to complete complex college tasks can improve educational outcomes. For instance, text messages reminding students to complete pre-matriculation tasks and connecting them with one-on-one advising to help them navigate the college-going process can increase on-time college enrollment (Castleman, Arnold, and Wartman, 2012; Castleman and Page, 2015, 2016; Castleman, Owen, and Page, 2015; Castleman, Page, and Schooley, 2014). Personalized assistance applying for federal financial aid increased college enrollment (Bettinger, Long, Oreopoulos, and Sanbonmatsu, 2012) while reminders to re-file the FAFSA have increased FAFSA completion (ideas42, 2015; Page, Castleman, and Meyer, under review) and persistence (Castleman and Long, 2016) for students already enrolled in college. While these studies demonstrate positive impacts, we know little about whether they can be effectively scaled or what mechanisms lead to the positive impacts previously studies have found.
The four papers in this panel evaluate the impact of large-scale nudge campaigns aimed at helping students apply for college and financial aid. They advance our understanding of the efficacy of nudge interventions in postsecondary education at scale and provide insights into the mechanisms that have led to positive impacts in similar smaller-scale outreach campaigns. The first paper, titled “Nudging at a National Scale: Experimental Evidence from FAFSA Completion Campaigns,” presents findings from a national and statewide FAFSA outreach campaign that together reached over 800,000 high school and college students. The second paper, titled “Connecting Students with Financial Aid: Evidence from a Field Experiment,” presents findings from a FAFSA outreach campaign focused on current college students. The third paper, titled “Financial Aid Nudges: A National Experiment to Increase Retention of Financial Aid and College Persistence,” presents findings from a national nudge intervention aimed at increasing continued receipt of financial aid and college enrollment. The final paper, “Digital Messaging to Improve College Enrollment and Success,” reports on findings from a national and a Texas-based outreach campaign aimed at helping students navigate the college search, application, selection and transition processes.