New Haven (September 1, 2020) – The Connecticut RISE Network, a community of public high school educators working together to help Connecticut students succeed in and beyond high school, today announced that its annual Summer Melt texting campaign tripled in scope, supporting 1,838 students across six districts. All participating students received personalized text messages to help them stay on track towards their postsecondary goals, with 1,638 participating RISE students projected to enroll in either a 2-year or 4-year university or college during the Fall 2020 semester.
RISE first launched the Summer Melt campaign in 2017 to ensure RISE high school graduates matriculate in college by preventing summer melt, which occurs when high school students are accepted into college, but miss certain enrollment milestones and are then unable to enroll. Summer melt is a troubling national trend demonstrating a gap between students’ college aspirations and attainment, as far too many students graduate from high school planning to attend college but do not enroll the following fall. This year, the RISE Network expanded their campaign from two RISE high schools to seven to ensure more students received timely updates, resources and answers to enrollment questions, enabling them to enroll in college. From June 19, 2020 to August 28, 2020, College and Career Coordinators and school counselors at participating RISE high schools sent a total of 50,139 text messages to 1,838 students who recently graduated from East Hartford High School, Hartford Public High School, Manchester High School, Middletown High School, Orville Platt High School and Maloney High School in Meriden, and Westhill High School in Stamford.
“We first started Summer Melt texting because RISE educators were seeing that far more seniors said they planned to go to college than actually enrolled, and we were troubled by the gap,” explained Salman Khan, who as Applied Data Strategist of the Connecticut RISE Network piloted the first Summer Melt campaign in 2017. “When students graduate from high school, they lose key support, yet still have to complete over seven different steps between graduation in the spring and enrollment in the fall, including attending orientation, submitting immunization records, providing housing forms, registering for courses, and more. The enrollment process post-graduation can be daunting and confusing. We wanted to offer graduates continued support, and we’ve been overwhelmed by the response from students.”
The U.S. Department of Education estimates that at least one-third of college-bound students do not make it to campus each year due to missing key milestones, such as submitting financial aid forms and health documents or taking certain placement exams during the summer months between high school and college. First-generation college students and students of color are disproportionately affected by summer melt. This year’s Summer Melt texting campaign was particularly important and high-stakes. COVID-19 interrupted college planning activities for the Class of 2020 and created unprecedented challenges and uncertainty for many students and families, and educators in the RISE Network sought creative solutions to continue supporting students even through a remote context. Through the Summer Melt texting campaign, 80% of all Grade 12 students from participating RISE high schools received customized texts, such as “Have you made your college email and checked out your college’s web portal at [college_website]? Take note of information about course registration, housing options, and orientation sessions!” and “Have you submitted your immunization and health forms? This is a required step before starting school this fall.”
“We knew this year would present unique challenges and opportunities, particularly for graduating seniors making decisions about their college and career plans. Through the Summer Melt campaign, we’ve been so inspired to see students, counselors, teachers, and families come together in new ways to help all students achieve their college and career goals,” said Emily Pallin, Executive Director of the Connecticut RISE Network. “The success of the campaign comes at a moment when educators are being asked to reimagine support for their students. RISE educators continue to show that — through hard work and creative solutions — we can close opportunity gaps and ensure all students succeed.”
“It helped me stay on track with deadlines I may have forgotten about like looking into textbooks and financial aid deadlines. Also, if I asked a question they actually responded and gave their opinion,” said Allison McSally, a Westhill High School graduate.
“The most helpful thing about the Summer Melt campaign in supporting me with the transition to college was knowing what teachers I needed to speak to and sit down with. Once I knew what teachers participated in the summer program and would help me get closer to reaching my goal, the college process was made easier,” said Princess Frimpong, East Hartford High School graduate heading to Southern Connecticut State University. “Although it still got hard at times, knowing I had more than enough people to pick me up when I fell down gave me the willpower to not only want to further my education for myself but for them as well. They helped me to see that getting into college was worth the stress. If they didn’t believe in me the way they did I wouldn’t be attending Southern Connecticut State University like I am today.”
“Summer Melt provided an opportunity for students to connect with someone who could help bridge the gap and allowed me to keep working with them and complete many of the college application and financial aid milestones,” said Ms. Abby Marcantonio, a counselor at Platt High School.
“If we did not have this avenue for students to reach out for help over the summer, several students would not be in college right now,” said Ms. Marie Brown, a counselor at East Hartford High School. “We were able to support students with issues related to course registration, financial aid, immunizations, and more. It is clear students continue to need support beyond the academic school year.”
Educators across the RISE Network will continue to support and follow graduates’ progress through the new school year, including by looking at fall matriculation data from the National Student Clearinghouse. Summer Melt counselors are also already exploring creative ways to use the texting platform to support high school students during the school year in new remote and hybrid formats.