Low-income students face a range of barriers to accessing college, and recent research has found that talented students from low-incoming households still don't apply to selective colleges at the rates they should.
However, colleges have increasingly found that smartphones can be a useful tool for connecting with and recruiting underrepresented students. For example, 27% of first-generation students said they first learned about a college on social media, compared with 17% of non-first-generation students.
In a recent article for EdTech, Meghan Bogardus Cortez Here are three ways colleges are using smartphones and other technology to break down the barriers low-income students face:
1: Simplify applications
Around one in four low-income students have no support networks while applying to college, and roughly 29% of that group say the process for applying for admission and financial aid is too confusing, according to a report by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF).
To help simplify the process, some colleges and nonprofits send text message reminders and tips while students complete their applications. One study by EAB Enrollment Services found that 90% of students read the text messages within three minutes of receiving them and that students responded to text messages who had not responded to outreach via mail or email.
2: Digitize campus tours
According to the JKCF report, 44% of low-income students do not visit their top choice institution mostly because of cost. Some researchers recommend that colleges subsidize campus visits for low-income students, but virtual reality can also give them a glimpse of campus life.
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Some schools, like Texas A&M University and Maryville College, have created virtual campus tours. The Savannah College of Art and Design sent accepted students smartphone-compatible headsets by Google Cardboardthat included virtual reality course catalogues.
3: Build support networks
There's significant overlap between low-income and first-generation students, and one of the biggest challenges facing first-generation students is that they have relatively few adults in their lives who can help them prepare for college. Low-income students are also less likely to have taken advancement placement courses or had other college-like experiences before they arrive on campus, according to the JKCF report.
Some colleges are turning to mobile apps to help students navigate the "hidden curriculum" of campus and scale up advising support. Research shows that a combination of simple nudges and regular check-ins from mentors can go a long way to make such students feel confident that they can navigate the strange waters of college academics (Bogardus Cortez, EdTech, 11/7; Bogardus Cortez, EdTech, 3/23; Bengfort, EdTech, 10/25).
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