Building Philanthropy for a Better Florida

Nudging With Incentives

January 22, 2020

Sometimes “nudging” interventions aren’t enough. A recently published working paper found it took financial incentives to get students to re-enroll in classes.

The paper, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research this month, compared different nudging campaigns at several community colleges in Florida. The process typically entails encouraging students to re-enroll, fill out financial aid forms or hit other milestones via different forms of communication, with the intention of increasing college attainment. Several studies have looked at the effectiveness of texting students, with mixed results. While more tailored campaigns seem to produce positive results, attempts at nationalizing them have fallen flat. This study, funded by a grant from the Helios Education Foundation, provides a potential alternative.

The research shows that nudges can work, but they need to be paired “with something concrete that speaks to a real need,” said Terri Taylor, strategy director for postsecondary finance at the Lumina Foundation. The inclusion of a waiver changes the message from appearing as marketing spam in the former student's mind to something they should pay attention to, she added.

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