Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Committee Chair

Criag Stewart

Committee Member

Amanda Young

Committee Member

Antonio de Velasco

Committee Member

William Akey


In this study, the experimental trial focused on whether the inclusion of the heuristic cues in email communications to students might affect a larger proportion of the subjects to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) than were observed from a control group. The experiment also evaluated if the inclusion of a heuristic cue within the message affected a subjects likelihood to open the email or click the link provided in the email. The study also considered if gender differences that appear in college student retention and completion outcomes might be present in interactions with email communications. The project failed to discover significant differences from the heuristic cues for FAFSA submissions across three message trials, but significant differences were present in email open and click behaviors, including significant gender differences. The resulting pattern shows message senders and receivers did not follow the same pathway to desired outcomes, even with a clearly defined path. This project affirms that student investment with university email campaigns is not universal and many different heuristic components contribute to a subjects response to a message. Institutions must consider how they communicate with students, including the exploration of multi-modal message distribution, if they want to be sure their messages are heard by the very people they are sending them to, particularly if they want that audience to do as they are told.Keywords: persuasion, email messages, gender differences in higher education, social identity theory, heuristic cues, enrollment management, FAFSA submission, college student retention, college graduation


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest