With a focus on increasing connection with first-generation students and those from disadvantaged or low-income households, HESC devised a program that would utilize direct text messaging to provide students and their parents with vital information about financial aid opportunities, important deadlines, and other critical information they need to know to support them on their path to higher education.
Working with Granicus’ govDelivery communications platform, Liotta’s team created a text message and bulletin distribution campaign targeted to both students and their parents. An initial pilot program in the spring of 2022 saw HESC partner with 13 New York high schools from throughout the state, comprising of approximately 10,000 students. Combined with other in-school and online collateral and messaging, the goal of the pilot sought to gather feedback regarding the optimal number of messages, what types or messages were most relevant and useful, and identify how effective text messaging was for the targeted audiences.
Being able to identify and segment their audiences for specific messaging was something that Liotta said was a great help in the govDelivery tools.
“We would love to expand our demographic to start reaching into the lower middle schools, the seventh and eighth graders,” she said. “But right now, we think that we hit the right cadence. We’ve hit the right demo. We try to make it simple.”
“We can target students by grade level and tailor messages for that population,” she said. “For example, a message to a sophomore student or their parent will be different to the message that a senior and their parents receive. We can also target school counselors to help ensure they are prepared to support students with their college goals. Since parents and counselors use their email more, we’ve been able to utilize govDelivery’s email platform as well, which has been really shown to be productive for us.”
Based on data received in govDelivery’s dashboards, Liotta said that the team could better understand and adjust their approaches when broadening the awareness campaign to a statewide audience.
HESC leverages text messaging to engage with students in a personal and meaningful manner on a platform they use most often, while at the same time providing easy and efficient access to further information either in emails or on the website. The immediacy of the text messaging, Liotta said, allows for relevant information to go directly to the students and families that need it the most.
“We’re using it to notify students about events,” she said. “We’re letting them know an application is opening or a closing deadline is coming up or remind them about upcoming SAT tests. Text messaging allows us to get those messages quickly and easily into their hands. And we’ve seen that they’re receiving that information because our conversion rates for people attending events, for people visiting a particular section of our website has also increased in relationship.”