How a Single Nudge Resulted in 42% Increase in Enrollment

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Tacoma Community College (TCC) serves more than 13,000 students in Pierce County, Washington through more than 60 transfer programs of study and 46 professional/technical degree programs. The college has outlined four key goals in its 2014-2018 strategic plan including:

  1. Create learning by designing and implementing learning-focused instructional methods that respond to student and community needs.
  2. Engage community by building relationships within and partners outside of the institution.
  3. Embrace discovery by allocating sufficient resource to innovation.
  4. Achieve equity by developing sustainable efforts to make college more accessible and affordable.

To make progress toward our vision, TCC is taking action, one simple nudge at a time.

Two cross-functional teams at TCC work together to turn institutional insights into informed action and nudge Tacoma students toward success. The “Insights Team” uses Advising Analytics and Workflow to explore factors influencing students’ likelihood to persist while the “Action Team” uses Inspire for Advisors to implement nudge campaigns.

In June 2017, only a month after attending a Civitas Learning Partner Workshop in Washington, the Civitas Action Team (CAT) contacted faculty and advisors trained in Inspire for Advisors requesting their help in reaching out to their advisees.

Identifying Students and Designing the Message

Faculty advisors and advisors used Inspire filters to identify students who had not yet re-enrolled for the fall 2017 term.

The goal was to nudge students to register for fall courses, and offer help. Faculty advisors and advisors that had plans to be off-campus at the end of the term were still encouraged to send the nudge and to set an “Out of Office” message along the lines of

“If you need help registering for fall courses while I am unavailable, please contact General Advising by phone at XXX-XXX-XXXX or by email at as they are happy to help”

The content of the nudge message sent to eligible students is below. More best practices are available in a free ebook: Driving Student Success One Precise Nudge at a Time.

Subject: TCC misses you

Dear [Student First name]

I noticed that you have not enrolled for Fall 2017 classes yet.

Classes are filling up fast and I would hate for you to miss out on classes you need. If you already know what you plan to take, enroll now at [LINK TO ENROLLMENT].

I know selecting classes can be confusing. If you need assistance, I am here to help. Reply to this email to schedule an  advising appointment with me to discuss your classes.

In case I am not available to assist you, please contact our advisors in building 7 and they will be happy to help you. Please click on this link for additional information: [LINK TO ADVISOR RESOURCES].

As a reminder, here is how to enroll: [LINK TO VIDEO]

I look forward to seeing you in the fall!

Launch and Impact Analysis

Between June 6 and June 15, faculty advisors and advisors sent the nudge email to 900 students. As of June 20, 48% of the students contacted had enrolled for the fall term! This represents a 42% increase in the number of additional students who enrolled from spring-to-fall compared to the same time period the previous year.

To follow on this success, the Civitas Action Team is working on developing an annual campaign schedule that details what recurring campaigns will be planned on a term-by-term basis. These future campaigns will leverage student persistence prediction scores in order to inform messaging strategy — for example, tailoring nudge content with mindset messaging which has been shown to be more effective in achieving student success outcomes.

We have also hosted faculty-led Inspire for Advisors training during the Professional Development Week and the professional development area is working on building online training modules in order to make more of these strategies and tactics available to advisors across campus on-demand.


Download the nudging eBook, which includes strategies and tactics to help you design and implement data-inspired student outreach campaigns that improve outcomes.


This story gives credit to the work completed by the Tacoma Community College Civitas Action team pictured to the left. (Front: Chris Soran Back from left: Victoria Ichungwa, Katie Gulliford, Analea Brauburger, Char Gore, and Jamie Traugott (not in photo))

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