Can ‘microscholarships’ steer student behavior?
Colleges have a pretty good idea of the student behaviors that are associated with retention. How can they encourage students to do those things? A company called RaiseMe is pitching a new approach: Colleges can use its platform to offer students “microscholarships,” or relatively small credits toward their bill, in return for completing such tasks. On Friday, RaiseMe announced that it’s conducting a pilot project on student-success microscholarships with Wayne State University. This year, participating freshmen at Wayne State can earn $10 to $50 a pop for activities like attending a campus arts or athletics event or taking a study-skills workshop. The total they earn — capped at $500 — will be subtracted from their college bill next fall. RaiseMe conducted a smaller pilot at Wayne State over the summer to see if a similar approach could reduce the number of students who “melted,” or did not enroll as planned. Wayne State, for one, is under no illusion that there’s a silver bullet for student success. For years the university has labored to improve its six-year graduation rate, which stood at just 28 percent in 2012. The university’s leaders want to see a six-year graduation rate of 50 percent by 2020, said Dawn Medley, associate vice president for enrollment management, and it’s getting close. To achieve that level of progress, Wayne State has tried just about everything: overhauling its advising system and how it awards scholarships, using predictive analytics and a chatbot system, offering emergency grants and providing a food pantry. “It there is a practice out there,” Medley said, “then we want to make sure we’re doing that practice, and doing it well.” The university has had a good experience with RaiseMe on the admissions side, Medley said. Of the 2,968 admissions deposits the university received for the fall, 879 came from students who had used the platform. Of those, 515 came from students who had learned of the university from RaiseMe. More than anything, Medley said, RaiseMe helps Wayne State signal its interest in students who may have thought that a four-year college was out of reach — while there’s still time for those students to take steps to prepare. For current students, Medley said, the program could help “socially norm” the sorts of behaviors that the university knows are linked to student success. Ideally, Medley said, she’d like to see microscholarships cover the university’s annual tuition increases for students. If more students are retained, the university can make up the difference in volume. Still, she said, the effort is not a replacement for anything else the university is trying. “We’ve got 15 irons in the fire,” Medley said. “This is the 16th.”
September 27, 2019