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.
University of Texas at Austin (eTASFA)
Project Objective: The project was developed to modernize the application portion of the process and allow students the ability to electronically report financial data through a self-serve web solution.
Executive Summary: The eTASFA application is a web-based document for special residency students at the University of Texas at Austin, enabling them to complete their state financial aid application online. The application uses DocuSign for electronic signing. In additional to serving students, the application also reduces manual data entry by the Office of Financial Aid staff. Staff in the Office of Financial Aid created the application, along with input from students. eTASFA went into production in October 2017 after 18 months of development. As of February 2018, approximately 160 students have used it, saving 20 hours per week of staff time.
CUNY Brooklyn College (Data-driven Financial Aid Cohort Advisement Model)
Project Objective: To better serve the financial aid needs of the students of CUNY Brooklyn College, the Financial Aid Office implemented a cohort advisement model to help our predominantly low/middle income, diverse and in many cases, first generation families to navigate what can at times be a complicated financial aid application process.
Executive Summary: For the 2016-17 academic year, the Office of Financial Aid at CUNY Brooklyn College moved to a cohort advisement and application processing model. This allowed us to assign every single financial aid applicant a dedicated financial aid counselor to assist them with the often-complicated application, awarding and disbursement processes. In the 2015-16 academic year that immediately preceded the implementation of our cohort financial aid advisement model, only 54% received some form of financial aid. In 2016-17 under the cohort model, 76% of the student population received some form of financial aid. This is a direct success of the cohort advisement model. Additionally, aid disbursement totals for 2016-17 show an overall increase in total aid and a reduction of loans borrowed. We believe that increase in overall aid and grants and a reduction in student loan borrowing directly coincide with our implementation of the financial aid cohort advisement model, students are more informed from a financial literacy perspective regarding loans and maximize their federal and state grant eligibility.
The project works on life skills students need to succeed through financial literacy knowledge, and financial wellness. The five-year plan included a multi-pronged approach, including partnering on a “train the trainer” curriculum.
California State University, Sacramento for “Financial Aid Meter for Students.”
CSUS’s Financial Aid Meter provides students and financial aid advisors a way to quickly determine how many semesters of eligibility the student has remaining in financial aid programs, so they can match their academic plan to their remaining financial aid eligibility.
Michigan State University, “Utilizing Learning Management Systems for Financial Aid Training”
This online training program offers many benefits including reaching learners from various geographical locations, allowing self-paced learning, and the ability to review training materials at any time.
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, the program’s four components – training, mentoring, networking, and job shadowing – give participants the tools they need to grow and succeed in financial aid.
Honorable Mention: California Financial Aid Leadership Institute
The second Gold Star Honorable Mention went to the University of California, Santa Barbara for its Financial Aid Leadership Institute, which was created to identify 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.
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.
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. Topics range from loan acceptance processes to explaining the effects of dropping courses in regards to modular withdrawals.
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 to simplify the FAFSA application process for students and reduce the overall workload at the university's financial aid office.
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) 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 and House to conduct advocacy efforts highlighted in our "Briefing Document" on several key topics affecting Title IV Financial Aid, aid to provide professional development to 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 educate members of the Michigan Legislature about the financial aid process and 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, by asking participants to answer multiple choice or true/false questions via an electronic clicker. As a result, the financial aid staff was trained on the use of the student response systems which are now used in all financial aid presentations.
Prior to the Gold Star Awards, NASFAA offered State Awards.