Dallas County Promise Connects with Students to Reduce Summer Melt

By: Katrina James, Managing Director, Dallas County Promise

 

There are numerous challenges on the road to helping students enroll and persist in their postsecondary journeys.  Each year, many graduating high school students complete a substantial portion of the process required for enrollment in college yet fail to complete the final step, a phenomenon known as “Summer Melt.”

This year, Dallas County Promise deployed a two-prong strategy to reduce the “Melt” that the organization and its institutional partners have been tracking for several years.  The goals: first, to improve understanding of students’ postsecondary intentions and get their feedback on how they felt about the support and resources they had as they prepared for the future, and, second, to deploy targeted outreach that could encourage students to complete their enrollment and stay on track with their intended plans.

 “We know from experience that summer melt affects college enrollment in the Dallas area, as it does at many institutions across the US.  As a partner to 11 school districts and many colleges and universities in the metroplex, we help build capacity in our partners with strategies, tools, and partnerships to address the impacts of summer melt.” 

 “We know from experience that summer melt affects college enrollment in the Dallas area, as it does at many institutions across the US.  As a partner to 11 school districts and many colleges and universities in the metroplex, we help build capacity in our partners with strategies, tools, and partnerships to address the impacts of summer melt.”
Understanding the student experience

Using the Salesforce platform and FormAssembly, the Promise team prepared and deployed an exit survey for Promise students graduating high school in Spring 2022.  In addition to asking students about their college and career plans for Fall 2022, the survey also included items for anonymous feedback responses about their experiences as they were getting ready to graduate from high school.  In addition to listing the institutions and majors they were most interested in, students were able to anonymously provide input on how supported they felt by the staff and programs at their high school, how helpful they found the resources provided by the Dallas County Promise team, and their overall mindset about how they felt about their future pathway, plans and goals.

A substantial majority of students responding to the survey indicated that they planned to attend either a 4-year or 2-year college or attend a 2-year college with the intention to transfer to a 4-year college. Many respondents also indicated a career pathway that most interested them, led by health sciences.  The anonymous feedback responses shed further light on the student experience with support services and programs, with students feeling the most supported in the areas of understanding enrollment steps and learning about career options.  This was followed by creating a postsecondary course plan, preparing for entrance exams, and, lastly, learning about college or military options that match their intended career pathways.

Importantly, survey respondents demonstrated a positive mindset about their future prospects.  A majority agreed that they felt they could be successful in their college and/or career pathway, they felt excited about their plans after high school, and they felt confident that they could achieve their goals after high school.

“The overall positive mindset of these students, combined with the detail about their intended plans, led us to strongly believe that many of them could be supported with successfully transitioning to and completing a postsecondary credential.”

 “The overall positive mindset of these students, combined with the detail about their intended plans, led us to strongly believe that many of them could be supported with successfully transitioning to and completing a postsecondary credential.”
Targeted outreach moves the enrollment needle

In the second phase of the program, the Dallas County Promise team developed a series of targeted communications for multiple channels to reach a select group of graduating students who had not completed the last steps in the enrollment process.  

Over a period of six weeks, the team, in partnership with Grad Alliance, sent more than 10,000 texts and 8,600 emails, and made more than 6,500 calls to 4,300 students. They made direct contact with more than 70% of the targeted group.  Of these students, 84% have enrolled.

“Our initial results make us optimistic that we can effectively mitigate summer melt and keep most of our students on track with their postsecondary plans, resulting in benefits not only for the students but also for our communities.”

 “Our initial results make us optimistic that we can effectively mitigate summer melt and keep most of our students on track with their postsecondary plans, resulting in benefits not only for the students but also for our communities.”

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