When is the deadline for class registration? How do I make sure my financial aid is in place? How do I sign up for campus housing? The answers to these important questions, and many more, will now be at the fingertips of college-bound students, thanks to an innovative text message alert program for students with iMentor, a leading New York City-based youth mentoring organization.
Our CEO, Mike O'Brien, announced this pilot campaign this week at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America meeting as a CGI Commitment to Action. This project is an innovative cross-sector partnership with colleges, college success organizations and foundations, to further iMentor’s mission to help students in low-income communities successfully transition to and complete college. Funded with grants provided to iMentor by the Citi Foundation and The Heckscher Foundation for Children, the program’s goal is to significantly decrease the college graduation gap for students from the bottom-income quartile; only 12% of whom reach graduation.
“We are very excited to launch the text message campaign for college-bound students,” said iMentor CEO Mike O’Brien. “Research shows that anywhere from 10%-40% of low income and first-generation college students change their plans over the summer due to logistical, financial or personal issues. This program is a simple, cost effective way to offer meaningful, individualized support to students as they make this transition. We’re grateful that the Citi Foundation and The Heckscher Foundation for Children are funding this project as well as the expansion of our work with college students.”
The text message campaign will kick off this summer for 600 college-bound students in the iMentor program in New York City. These students will receive a series of text messages for 10 weeks about important college-related tasks and deadlines, specific to each student’s college. As a part of the campaign, each student’s mentor will also receive text messages about their mentee’s matriculation requirements and suggestions on how to support them in the process.
“Academic preparation is only one aspect of ensuring students get to and through college – for many, the additional responsibility of managing their registration, scheduling, and financial obligations is daunting,” said Pamela Flaherty, President and CEO of the Citi Foundation. “We are pleased to support iMentor’s innovative efforts to use technology to provide another way that mentors, including many Citi employees, can directly support the academic ambitions of these students.”
“The Heckscher Foundation is committed to finding innovative strategies for leveling the playing field for qualified youth in college readiness and retention. iMentor has developed some exciting tools for doing just that, and we are pleased to help support it in this effort,” said Peter Sloane, CEO and Chairman, The Heckscher Foundation for Children.
The campaign was inspired by a study by two Harvard University-researchers, Benjamin Castelman and Lindsay Page, who concluded that college enrollment rates were four to seven percentage points higher for students in low-income communities who received personalized text messaging about college tasks compared to those who did not receive text messages.
iMentor is working in partnership with researchers Benjamin Castleman and Lindsay Page, and a variety of college success-oriented non-profit organizations to develop matriculation guides for colleges across New York state. Text messages for the campaign will be written to reflect the information and the deadlines outlined in the guides.
The campaign will officially begin on June 24, when the first set of text messages to students and mentors will be sent. The campaign will conclude on September 2nd, at which time the messaging and college enrollment data for all students will be reviewed by iMentor and its partners to improve and expand the program in the future.