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IES published a large RCT of providing college-intending, disadvantaged adults with personalized texts on the college enrollment & financial aid process. Quick take: High-quality RCT finds no impact on rate of college enrollment or financial aid form completion.

Program & Study Design:

  • The study randomly assigned 3,535 adults seeking college enrollment assistance from 18 federal Educational Opportunity Centers (EOCs) across the US to a treatment group that received EOC services plus personalized texts, vs a control group that received only EOC services.

  • The text messages focused on how to secure financial aid, complete college enrollment steps, & navigate other barriers to college entry. The sample was 30% Black, 15% Hispanic, 43% White, 64% female - and averaged 28 years old.


  • The study found no impact on the 2 primary outcomes - rate of college enrollment within 2 semesters of an individual’s intended college start date (58% T vs 58% C), & rate of federal financial aid form (FAFSA) completion within the 2 semesters (85% T vs 85% C).


  • Based on careful review, this was a well-conducted RCT (e.g., excellent baseline balance, no sample attrition, prespecified primary outcomes & analyses).

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