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Reenrollment Increases Attributed to Strategic Incentive

Author: Helios Education Foundation

October 24, 2019

Research shows that a vast majority of students who enroll in a community college do not complete their degree within a six-year period. Each semester, students drop out or “stop out” of college for a myriad of reasons. In light of this alarming statistic, the University of Florida (UF) in partnership with Helios Education Foundation, led a randomized controlled trial (RCT) project to examine the benefits of financial and informational nudges targeted toward students who had “stopped out” of college. 

In partnership with five Florida state colleges, UF principal investigator and Assistant Professor of Higher Education Administration & Policy and Director of the Institute of Higher Education, Justin Ortagus, Ph.D. led the successful Florida Re-enrolment Demonstration Project initiative. The reenrollment project sought not only to reenroll more students, but to explore the reasons why students stopped out in the first place. “The path to a postsecondary degree occasionally takes unexpected turns”, said Paul Luna, President and CEO of Helios Education Foundation. “We are enthusiastic about the results of this reenrollment project and the opportunity to support more students toward degree completion.”   

Understanding that most colleges already provide an informational nudge to “stopped out” students using various channels, this initiative differentiated itself with the use of a financial incentive tied to the informational nudges received by one of the control groups. Out of 27,028 students who received one of three interventions/treatments, a total 2,099 reenrolled in college. Results demonstrated that eight percent of students reenrolled given an information-only nudge, whereas 21 percent of students reenrolled if given an informational nudge tied to a financial incentive.  

Upon conclusion of the reenrollment project, a post-intervention survey was conducted with over 2,000 students. Of survey respondents, 51 percent noted tuition and fees as the primary deterrent which prompted them to “stop out” originally. Another large proportion of students, 48 percent, identified living expenses (childcare, rent, etc.) as leading factors for stopping out. 

These numbers reflect a difficult reality for many, yet they also highlight an area of opportunity for organizations to invest in financial incentives that promote and foster a culture of reenrollment and completion. 

The reenrollment project is currently tracking persistence among the students who reenrolled as result of this experiment. For an in-depth look at the Florida Reenrollment Project click HERE. 

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