The Gold Star Award recognizes innovative ideas in the financial aid arena at any level, targeted toward any constituency. Up to three ideas are recognized each year. Below are some of the previously awarded projects.
In 2015, there was one Gold Star Award winner, and two honorable mentions:
Winner: The Nine Things Every College Student Should Know About Money
The winner of this year’s Gold Star Award was the University of Oklahoma for “The Nine Things Every College Student Should Know About Money,” a course created to provide students with an understanding of personal finance and how financial decisions will impact their lives going forward.
Honorable Mention: nextPAGE
The first Gold Star Honorable Mention was presented to PASFAA – the Pennsylvania Association – for nextPAGE, PASFAA’s Advancement of Generations Exchange. Created to empower the next generation of financial aid administrators, nextPage is targeted to FAAs with less than ten years’ experience. The four integral components – training, mentoring, networking, and job shadowing – give participants the tools they need to grow and succeed in financial aid and build a strong network.
Honorable Mention: California Financial Aid Leadership Institute
The second Gold Star Honorable Mention went to the University of California, Santa Barbara for the University of California Financial Aid Leadership Institute, which was created to prepare the University of California system for a large predicted loss of experience and Institutional knowledge in the financial aid office and elsewhere on campus. The Financial Aid Leadership Institute created in Santa Barbara is a three-year cohort program that identifies up and coming financial aid professionals and prepares them to become the next high level financial aid administrators at UC.
In 2014, there were two Gold Star Award winners, and one honorable mention:
The first award winner was FAChat, put together by three individuals from three institutions; Justin Chase Brown, formerly of University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and currently Associate Director at the University of Missouri, Melissa Haberman, Compliance and Training Coordinator at the University of Wisconsin Colleges, and Jayme Jarrett, Financial Aid Counselor at Ohio Northern University. It is a moderated Twitter chat for Financial Aid Professionals generally held on the second Tuesday of each month from noon to 1:00 pm central time, that allows consumption, conversation and creation of ideas, discussion, and professional connections.
Financial Aid 101
The second award winner was Financial Aid 101, an email series created by the University of Denver. After realizing that most families were overwhelmed with the financial aid process, Lisa Westendorf, Assistant Director of Communication in Financial Aid, conceptualized and implemented a customized email series for the school's incoming students in fall of 2013. This series was so successful it was carried over to incoming students for fall 2014.
Financial Aid Video Library
An honorable mention was awarded to Michigan State University for creating a video library as a self-help tool for students and parents that can be accessed 24/7. The topics of the videos range from loan acceptance processes to explaining the effects of dropping courses in regards to modular withdrawals. The videos are embedded within several of the schools webpages and can be shared easily via social media outlets.
The 2013 Gold Star award went to "Clock Hour Group and Program," submitted by the Florida Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. This initiative targeted the training needs of aid administrators serving in clock-hour settings by providing specific training and networking opportunities to this segment of the aid-practitioner community.
Award: "Seven Easy Steps to the FAFSA: A Student's Guide to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and IRS Data Retrieval Tool Tutorial," submitted by the University of California, Santa Barbara
The Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships at the University of California, Santa Barbara developed an online FAFSA tutorial titled "Seven Easy Steps to the FAFSA, A Student's Guide to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid."
The tool was developed to simplify the FAFSA application process for the students that have access to this tutorial and to reduce the overall workload at the university's financial aid office, thus saving the institution valuable time and resources.
Award: "NCASFAA's Veterans' Task Force and Veteran Re-entry and PTSD Awareness," submitted by the North Carolina Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators
The North Carolina Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NCASFAA) was one of the first financial aid organizations to focus on the role of aid administrators with our returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. The association created the NCASFAA Veteran's Task Force to keep the members aware of any re-entry issues veterans might face entering the higher education environment.
Award: "Associations Collaborating for Advocacy on the Hill" submitted jointly by EASFAA, DE-DC-MD ASFAA, and SASFAA
The goal of the initiative was to establish relationships with Legislative Aides from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and the House Sub-Committee on Education & Labor; to conduct advocacy efforts highlighted in our "Briefing Document" on several key topics affecting Title IV Financial Aid, aid to provide professional development to our participants.
Honorable Mention: "Michigan Legislative Training and Capitol Visits" submitted by the Michigan Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators
The goals of the project were to first and foremost, educate members of the Michigan Legislature about the financial aid process and the extent of all the types of aid students in the state receive as well as to educate financial aid administrators about the legislative process and how to effectively advocate for financial aid support for students.
Award: "Clickers" Submitted By Vernon College
The main goal of the project was to transform instruction delivery method for financial aid presentations. Periodically throughout the presentation participants were asked multiple choice or true/false questions answering via their clicker. The presenter received immediate feedback regarding the participants understanding of the material instead of assuming that the participants understood the information presented. The immediate feedback afforded the presenter the opportunity to provide additional information or explain the material again as needed. The participant with the highest score was then given a $25 gift certificate. Comparing the results, the project was a success as the clicker participants scored higher in comparison to the control group on all questions - and in one case, 46% higher. The feedback from counselors and attendees was very positive. Among the comments received were: "Excellent training!! Great use of technology and interactive presentation approach! Kept people engaged and on track. Good idea." As a result of the success of this project, the financial aid staff is trained on the use of the student response systems which are used in all financial aid presentations.
Prior to the Gold Star Awards, NASFAA offered State Awards.