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Tarleton using cell phones, text messages to retain, motivate students

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

STEPHENVILLE, Texas—Simple text messages are helping Tarleton State University’s first-year students succeed academically, improve study habits, stay on track and graduate on time.

The new initiative complements a three-year focus by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) to improve and sustain achievement for first-year students historically underserved by higher education—low-income, first-generation and students from underrepresented ethnic populations.

Tarleton is one of only 44 AASCU member institutions selected to participate in the project, called Re-Imagining the First-Year Experience.

“Many of our first-year students are the only person in their family to ever pursue a university education, come from underrepresented ethnic populations and depend on financial assistance,” said Dr. Jennifer Edwards, assistant vice president for Tarleton’s Student Success and Multicultural Initiatives area. “Our goal is to help them succeed and graduate on time with limited debt.

“Almost all students have cellphones, and texting is their communication of choice,” she said, “so putting it to good use makes perfect sense.”

New software makes it possible to customize automated text messages to fit the needs of individual students. Success coaches and advisors at Tarleton send just-in-time reminders for academic advising appointments and tutoring sessions, as well as notices to apply for financial aid.

Students can use the software to ask questions about everything from degree requirements to study abroad opportunities to financial aid.

“The Student Success Collaborative@Tarleton software is a game changer for our university,” Edwards said. “Key messages nudge students in the right direction, keeping them on track and in-the-know to ensure successful first semesters.”

Feedback from students is positive.

“SSC makes it convenient for students to access their class schedules at one glance,” said Jeff Nwidobie, a mechanical engineering major. “Students can sync their class schedule with Google calendars, iCal and Outlook calendars. This helps them to plan their day accordingly.”

David Gillespie, a communication studies major, said, “SSC is a great way to stay on track with what classes you need to take. With the one-on-one help, you can get the best options for what you want to do.”

“It’s not just texting that makes these nudges successful,” Edwards pointed out. “It’s attention to details, like the frequency and timing of messages. That requires planning and refining, and listening to candid feedback.”

So far, text messages are working.

Close to half of the first-year students who recently forgot to register for academic advising did so within 24 hours of receiving a text reminder.

For more information on Tarleton’s Student Success and Multicultural Initiatives area, go to

Tarleton, celebrating 100 years as founding member of The Texas A&M University System, provides a student-focused, value-driven educational experience marked by academic innovation and exemplary service, and dedicated to transforming students into tomorrow’s professional leaders. As a member of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) with campuses in Stephenville, Fort Worth, Waco, Midlothian and online, Tarleton engages with its communities to provide real-world learning experiences and to address societal needs while maintaining its core values of tradition, integrity, civility, leadership, excellence and service.


Contact: Dr. Jennifer Edwards, Assistant Vice President of Student Success & Multicultural Initiatives

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