Supporting Enrollment for College-Intending Tennessee High School Graduates
Jenna Kramer

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Vanderbilt University

Primary Discipline

Increasingly, states are implementing broad-access college scholarships to reduce financial barriers to postsecondary education. Some statewide “Promise” programs go so far as to cover tuition and fees for in-state students. However, financial supports may not be effective as standalone interventions. My mixed-methods dissertation investigates the role of informational supports for college-intending high school graduates who are eligible for free community and technical college in Tennessee. I have been working in collaboration with TN Promise non-profit partner tnAchieves to design, implement, and evaluate a text messaging informational campaign and to facilitate focus groups to learn directly from students about valuable resources and supports for their postsecondary success. For the experimental study, I randomized roughly 18,000 college-intending high school graduates into four experimental conditions in order to determine whether the behavioral framing of informational text messaging affects college enrollment, successful maintenance of TN Promise eligibility, and within- and between-year persistence. This study fine-tunes an empirically tested intervention, text messaging for college-intending high school graduates, in a new context. For the qualitative study, I facilitated focus groups to assess students’ perceptions of the informational supports they receive, the relative utility of available resources, and the challenges they confront during their first year of “free college.” The results of these complementary projects will contribute to the body of research aimed at improving college enrollment and persistence, particularly for first-generation and low-income students at the margins of college enrollment.
About Jenna Kramer
Jenna Weber Kramer is a PhD candidate in the Department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development. Her research leverages quantitative and qualitative methods to examine the effects of institutional and governmental policies on student postsecondary access and success. Prior to Vanderbilt, Jenna worked as a college counselor at a charter high school in Boston. Her work with students to bolster readiness for the postsecondary application and decision-making processes and navigate financial aid motivates her research agenda. Jenna is committed to translating her passion for research into evidence-based public policy, practice, and publicly available resources. She has been named a Curb Center Public Scholar at Vanderbilt for 2018-2019 to work with the greater Nashville community to translate her dissertation findings into resources for local students and families. Jenna earned a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Spanish from Colgate University.

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