Local college access network makes use of mobile phone tech for higher ed success

To make sure they stay on the path to college, graduating seniors participating in the Central Florida YMCA Achievers program will get a steady stream of texts like these:

  • “For some, the hardest part of going to college is figuring out how to pay for it.  The key to all need-based aid is the FAFSA. Complete it ASAP@ fafsa.ed.gov’
  • “Want Bright Futures? You’ll need to submit the Florida Financial Aid Application before high school graduation.  Visit http://bit.ly/1wn76n to find out how.”

The texting project is an initiative of the Central Florida College Access Network, launched last year. Though it’s debuted among a cohort of students in a college access program at an Orlando YMCA, the program will soon be open to all the students the LCAN serves across Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties.

“The texting project came about as we brought together some of the partners in our college access network and delved into some of the dynamics in our communities,” said Ray Larsen, Assistant Vice President of Children’s Services at the Heart of Florida United Way, which serves as the anchor organization for the Central Florida LCAN. “Looking at the data, we were really surprised by the number of kids not filling out their paperwork, their FAFSAs.”

So Larsen and other members of the Central Florida LCAN seized upon the idea of a texting tool that could send reminders via cell phone, customized with deadlines and information relevant to a student’s college of choice. The program takes advantage of the 211 technology that United Way agencies across the country have been providing to cities as an interactive referral line to health and social service organizations.

“[The texting tool] is for students but it’s also a useful tool for mentors and parents,” Larsen added. “We feel we have only scratched the surface as far as the potential of this technology.”


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