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College Planning Outreach

Iowa's students today come from all sorts of backgrounds. They need help with the college planning and financing process at different times and in different ways. We provide information and services free of charge to address the needs of all Iowans, including those who might otherwise be overlooked or who might not receive sufficient information, through community outreach and social media avenues. Iowa Student Loan supports the Education Finance Council's Guiding Principles (PDF). Throughout this report, you may choose to highlight these best practices or return to regular viewing.

Community Outreach

We continually look for ways to reach out to other organizations with similar goals of helping students and families successfully navigate college financing. Equally important, we also search out new opportunities to connect with families from all demographic and socio-economic backgrounds.

Iowa College Access Network

Providing continued significant financial support to the Iowa College Access Network (ICAN) for free college planning services offered statewide is one way we help reach students. Since 1998, ICAN has helped empower Iowans to achieve their educational and career goals through statewide outreach, initiatives and partnerships with schools, groups and businesses.

ICAN's programs are offered face-to-face in 99% of Iowa high schools, as well as through one-on-one appointments at any of their eight locations and initiatives like the Golden Circle College Fair and FAFSA Ready Iowa.

A large portion of ICAN's customers are first-generation college students with no family members to help guide them through the application and financial aid process. In addition, nearly half of ICAN's customers come from families making less than $50,000 per year. Assisting these students benefits not only these students and their families but others in their communities who will turn to them for information and guidance in the future.

Financial Literacy Conferences

We presented information about our smart borrowing tools at two financial literacy conferences during the summer of 2016. Attendees received information about Student Loan Game Plan, ROCI Reality Check, the College Funding Forecaster and our middle school curriculum, It's Worth It. Collaborations like this help us better understand families' current situations and share information and best practices with other organizations that are involved in consumer financial literacy efforts.

I Have a Dream Foundation of Des Moines

In partnership with the I Have a Dream Foundation of Des Moines, we have sponsored two financial literacy events for parents of students attending the Dreamer Academy at Findley Elementary in Des Moines. The I Have a Dream Foundation program works to help disadvantaged families begin to imagine the possibilities of college — a dream that can often seem out of reach for students.

The Beginner's Guide to Paying for College events offer free seminars on several topics related to financial literacy and planning and paying for college, a free meal and free child care for parents. Parents who attend also receive a $30 college savings plan deposit for each of their students who are enrolled at Findley.

About the Dreamer Academy

  • Ethnically and racially diverse population
  • High percentage of low-income families (100% free and reduced lunch school)
  • Innovative move from I Have a Dream's traditional format of a grade-level cohort to a building-wide (K–5) program
  • Strong partnerships with surrounding community, middle and high schools, community organizations
  • All students are exposed to and encouraged to attend some sort of postsecondary institution, ranging from training in skilled trades to traditional four-year colleges and universities.

United Way's Bridges to Success

An additional way we have expanded our reach to non-traditional audiences is our support of the Bridges to Success project through the United Way of Central Iowa. This project is designed to help upgrade the basic skills and economic opportunities for many of the 30,000 central Iowans who do not currently have a high school diploma or equivalent credential. Lack of that diploma seriously limits the economic opportunities for each family, as well as the pool of skilled workers needed in our community.

Bridges to Success, in coordination with Des Moines Area Community College, provides support for adult learners in their quest for self-improvement and financial independence through completion of the High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED), postsecondary education or by entering the workforce. Our support for this project will include providing needed financial planning information on post-high school education options for those completing their HSED.

UI REACH

The University of Iowa REACH (Realizing Educational and Career Hopes) Program is a two-year transitional certificate program for students with multiple intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities. Students are empowered to learn the social and life skills, including money management and financial planning, necessary to become independent active members of the community.

Iowa Student Loan provided resources to fund a scholarship, to be awarded in the spring of 2017, to one or more Iowa students who would benefit from the UI REACH program but would otherwise not be able to attend due to unmet financial need.

Social Media

Iowa Student Loan continues to grow its online presence in an effort to expand our reach to students and parents planning for, attending and paying for college. Since launching a social media presence in the fall of 2013, Iowa Student Loan has continually looked for new ways to expand our reach by enhancing and updating the platforms we use to engage the public, with increased emphasis on video production, social media engagement, and digital communications, such as through email and our blog.

Student Loan Coach Blog

Iowa Student Loan launched the Student Loan Coach blog in the summer of 2015 and continuously shared new and improved content throughout 2016. Student Loan Coach is a resource containing articles focusing on the topics and information parents and students need through the whole college process. Original content, including images and infographics, are created in-house at Iowa Student Loan. Submitted content from strategic partners is also posted on a regular basis.

Facebook

Iowa Student Loan's Facebook following continued to grow steadily in 2016. With a majority of content coming from Student Loan Coach or videos we produced for YouTube, information remained fresh, reliable and educational.

Through boosted posts, including ads on Instagram, content on Facebook reaches a much broader audience of Iowa students and families than just those who follow our Facebook page

Video

Iowa Student Loan also uses video to increase outreach efforts. These videos are posted on social media channels as educational resources, and to promote use of our financial literacy tools. Video is also being used in a series to promote financial literacy called #StudentLoanProTip. Each video offers a quick, easy-to-digest tip for current and future college students about paying for school and borrowing responsibly.

Video testimonials are also being used to promote our financial literacy programs and feature students from across Iowa

Subscriber Emails

New in 2016, Iowa Student Loan launched regular email newsletters to key subscriber groups based on emails collected through opt-in sources. These emails provide financial literacy tips and resources through links to our tools, programs, and blog content. We're proud to report that our average email open rate across all subscriber groups remains above industry standards at 32.25%. The parent subscriber group remains the most engaged with an average email open rate of 47.25%, as of Nov. 30, 2016.

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