55,000 DegreesTwo Louisville education leaders have traveled to Washington, D.C., to give a presentation at the White House about how they’re increasing the number of high school grads headed for college.

Some high school students graduate in the spring with plans to attend college in the fall — but never follow through because they lack guidance and support from older siblings or mentors.

This so-called “summer melt” has been reduced locally by an effort that focuses on “text nudges” and coaching from young college students.

Mary Gwen Wheeler, executive director of 55,000 Degrees, and Pam Royster, a college/career readiness specialist with Jefferson County Public Schools, are scheduled to talk about the program’s success today at the White House.

Their presentation is part of a Reach Higher Summit, an initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama to encourage students to complete education past high school.

Wheeler told IL that initial data show the Louisville area summer melt rate dropped to 16 percent, down 4 percentage points, in 2014, the last year for which data were available.

The nudges and coaches typically serve to remind college-bound seniors about financial aid forms, college orientation, signing up for classes and other deadlines.

Small barriers sometimes stop students from enrolling in college classes, especially if they’re the first in the family headed for higher education, as they lack mentorship from parents or older siblings.

According to the White House, hundreds of thousands of low-income students are especially likely to encounter these hurdles.

Mary Gwen Wheeler

Mary Gwen Wheeler

The importance of efforts to reduce the summer melt has increased along with communities’ struggles to find enough college-educated workers. About 29 percent of Americans older than 25 have a bachelor’s degree or more, but only 27 percent of Louisville residents do, according to U.S. Census data. Kentucky fares even worse, with just under 22 percent.

Wheeler said she and Royster also hope to learn from other communities that have launched similar programs to improve local efforts to be able to encourage more high school graduates to attend and stay in college.

“It’s really a great opportunity for us to network,” said said.

Wheeler said she looked forward to her visit to the White House — her first — and possibly getting a chance to talk to the First Lady again. The two previously had met when Michelle Obama visited Louisville. However, Wheeler noted the two Louisville visitors were struggling through “horrendous” traffic in the nation’s capitol, because the Metro has been shut down for safety inspections.