In November, the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) began mailing preliminary notification letters to notify students that they have qualified for a Cal Grant. These letters include information on the size of the Cal Grant award, instructions on how to claim the award, and some additional information on other potential sources of aid. In 2017-18, instead of sending the same letter to all Cal Grant recipients, CSAC is sending three variants of this letter. One letter – the control letter –closely resembles the letters sent in previous years but has been updated to reflect this year’s Cal Grant award amounts. The other letters have been designed to be simpler, both in terms of the language used in the text, and in the way in which they are formatted. While these variants have been designed to be simpler, the research team has taken care to ensure all relevant information on the award and how to claim it is included in the letter. The two variants differ in that one includes language designed to “nudge” students into college attendance. Samples of the three letters are included below.
High schools were randomly assigned to one or another letter variant, so that all students at a school who appear to be Cal Grant eligible will receive the same letter but students at different schools may receive different variants.
CSAC is creating and mailing all communications, recording which version of each letter is sent to students at a given school. California Policy Lab researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, will conduct the data analysis.