WWC review of this study

Nudging at scale: Experimental evidence from FAFSA completion campaigns.

Bird, K. A., Castleman, B. L.; Denning, J. T., Goodman, J., Lamberton, C., & Rosinger, K. O. (2021). Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jebo.2020.12.022.

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
     examining 
    457,158
     Students
    , grades
    12-PS

Reviewed: September 2021

At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards without reservations
College enrollment outcomes—Statistically significant positive effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Enrolled in any college

Nudging intervention vs. Business as usual

1 Semester

NSC matched sample - Common Application;
271,365 students

82.70

82.40

Yes

 
 
1
More Outcomes

Enrolled in any college

Nudging intervention vs. Business as usual

0 Semesters

Full sample - Large State ;
185,793 students

55.10

54.20

Yes

 
 
1
Show Supplemental Findings

Enrolled in a 2-year college

Nudging intervention vs. None

1 Semester

NSC matched sample - Common Application;
271,365 students

10.20

10.00

No

--

Enrolled in 2-year college

Nudging intervention vs. Business as usual

0 Semesters

Full sample - Large State;
185,793 students

24.90

23.80

Yes

 
 
1

Enrolled in 4-year college

Nudging intervention vs. None

1 Semester

NSC matched sample - Common Application;
271,365 students

72.80

72.80

No

--

Enrolled in any college

Nudging intervention vs. Business as usual

3 Semesters

NSC matched sample - Common Application;
271,365 students

79.30

79.10

No

--

Enrolled in 4-year college

Nudging intervention vs. Business as usual

0 Semesters

Full sample - Large State;
185,793 students

31.50

31.60

No

--

Enrolled in any college

Nudging intervention vs. Business as usual

1 Semester

Full sample - Large State;
185,793 students

49.10

49.00

No

--

Enrolled in 4-year college

Nudging intervention vs. Business as usual

1 Semester

Full sample - Large State;
185,793 students

29.40

29.40

No

--

Enrolled in 2-year college

Nudging intervention vs. Business as usual

1 Semester

Full sample - Large State;
185,793 students

21.10

20.80

No

--
College readiness outcomes—Statistically significant negative effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Filed FAFSA

Nudging intervention vs. Business as usual

1 Semester

Full sample - Large State;
185,793 students

43.00

43.60

Yes

-1
 
 
Progressing in college outcomes—Indeterminate effects found
Outcome
measure
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
mean
Comparison
mean
Significant? Improvement
    index
Evidence
tier

Continuous enrollment for 3 terms

Nudging intervention vs. Business as usual

3 Semesters

NSC matched sample - Common Application;
271,365 students

73.80

73.70

No

--


Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.


  • Female: 58%
    Male: 42%
  • Race
    Other or unknown
    47%
    White
    53%

Setting

The report studied the impacts of two interventions. The first intervention targeted all lower-income and first-generation high school seniors nationwide who had registered with the Common Application (Common Application study). The second intervention targeted all students in a large state who had applied to college through a state-sponsored portal that allows applications to all the state’s public four-year colleges, as well as to some private institutions and community colleges (Large State study).

Study sample

The Common Application study included 271,365 students, of which 130,151 students in 1,714 schools were in the intervention group, and 141,214 students in 3,681 schools were in the comparison group. The students in the Common Application study sample were students registered with the Common Application and met at least one of three criteria for low socio-economic status. The student sample was 60.1% female, 62.4% White, 65,1% first generation, and 43.2% qualify for free- or reduced-priced lunch. The Large State study involved 185,793 students, of which 70,000 students are in the treatment group and 115,793 students are in the comparison group. The students in the Large State study sample were students who have completed high school and applied for college admission. The student sample was 54.2% female; 46.9% White, 16.7% Black, and 7.7% Asian; and 41.4% Hispanic.

Intervention Group

The Common Application intervention was structured around two campaigns: (1) Fall campaign consisting of two email messages encouraging students to consider college affordability when deciding where to apply, and (2) Winter campaign consisting of six email, text message, and postal messages encouraging students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The Large State intervention consists of seven emails nudging students to complete the FAFSA. The emails varied in terms of timing, information presentation, and motivational framing.

Comparison Group

In the Common Application study, students in the comparison group received generic emails about financial aid. In the Large State study, students in the comparison group did not receive any services.

 

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