Each year, NASFAA gives its newest award, the Gold Star Award, to individuals or groups that develop innovative ideas in the financial aid world. Past winners and honorable mentions have shown ideas in a range of forms, including online courses, Twitter chats, mentoring networks, and other resources to reach out to students, families, and financial aid professionals.
One of the inaugural winners of the Gold Star Award was #FAChat, a monthly Twitter chat developed by Justin Chase Brown of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Melissa Haberman of the University of Wisconsin Colleges, and Jayme Jarrett of Ohio Northern University. On the second Tuesday of each month, a variety of participants including financial aid professionals, students, policymakers, researchers, and others, gather to discuss news, policies, and events related to financial aid.
In the last two years, the number of contributors helping organize the monthly chat has expanded, including Karla Weber of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, according to Brown. In the first year of #FAChat, there were about 200 tweets per monthly chat, Brown said, according to statistics compiled by Liz Gross, a social media strategist for Great Lakes who participates in the monthly chats. This past year, the most popular chat logged about twice as many tweets in one month.
“It’s a great opportunity for you to take charge of your own professional development to connect, interact, and engage with your colleagues,” Brown said. “It allows you to keep up to date with what’s currently happening in the fast-moving field through back-channel discussions as they’re occurring.”
The next monthly installment of #FAChat will take place next Tuesday, Jan. 12, from 12:00-1:00 pm CST.
More recently, at NASFAA’s 2015 National Conference in New Orleans, the University of Oklahoma took home the Gold Star Award for its online course, “The Nine Things Every Student Should Know About Money.”
Bradley Burnett, associate vice president for enrollment and student financial services at the university, said the course has grown tremendously since going online.
While the original idea to create a course for students – specifically freshmen – about managing money and financial aid came about in the early 2000s with a lecture series, its popularity soon surpassed what the financial aid staff could deliver in person, prompting the decision to create a formal seminar course, and eventually to move the course online and open it up to all students. With an in-person course, student enrollment was limited, and Burnett said they initially would sometimes have just 20 students each session. But moving online has allowed the enrollment to grow to about 200 students each session.
“It’s just exploded since then,” Burnett said.
Taking the course online has also opened up more opportunities for student engagement, Burnett said, such as creating enhanced presentations with videos, and interactive video games students can play with different financial topics and goals.
There’s less than one month left to make nominations for NASFAA’s awards, including the Gold Star Award. Be sure to think of the innovative work your colleagues are doing, and nominate them by Feburary 5!
*Correction: A previously published version of the story incorrectly stated that Liz Gross is employed by Wells Fargo. The article has been updated to reflect that Gross is employed by Great Lakes.*
Publication Date: 1/8/2016