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Financial Literacy Programs

Families often realize how little they know about the current state of college financing once the first tuition bill arrives. To assist families before this stage, we foster an understanding of student loan debt and financial decision-making through innovative online tools and through parent and student award programs. 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.

Online Tools

Our suite of innovative online tools continues to expand to help all students and families understand responsible borrowing decisions when funding postsecondary education.

Student Loan Game Plan

Since 2010, Student Loan Game Plan has been helping students and parents understand maximum advisable borrowing levels based on college major and how to reduce their need to borrow to pay for college. Use of the tool is required as part of the application process for private student loans offered by Iowa Student Loan.

Return on College Investment

ROCI Reality Check provides a realistic estimation of the return on college investment, or ROCI, students may expect from earning a bachelor’s degree in a specific major. This one-stop shop provides essential facts and current salary data to help students understand whether the time, money and effort involved in a particular college degree allows them to fulfill their financial goals.

College Funding Forecaster

New in March 2016, this smart borrowing tool helps high school seniors and their parents project an estimated total college cost over four years based on the freshman year financial aid award packet.

To introduce the College Funding Forecaster, we partnered with lender partners and the Iowa College Access Network to host Award Letter Nights, where families could bring their student’s award packet and test out results with the College Funding Forecaster. In 2017, Iowa Student Loan will partner with the Iowa College Access Network to again offer the Award Letter Nights.

Coming Soon: Grad Degree Investment Gauge

A recent project focuses on filling a gap in the available online tools for a large segment of current college students: those pursuing a graduate degree.

The Grad Degree Investment Gauge, scheduled to launch mid-year 2017, is designed to help students:

  • Compare expected earnings between current degrees and additional grad degrees.
  • Weigh the expected borrowing level and cost to attain a graduate degree against estimated earnings.
  • Explore career opportunities for those with the desired graduate degree.

The tool is designed to help students who either:

  • Are just completing a bachelor’s degree.
  • Have completed a bachelor’s degree in the past and are planning to go back to school.
  • Previously completed a graduate degree but want to obtain another.
  • Want to obtain a graduate degree in their current field.
  • Plan to switch careers after completing a new graduate degree.

Award Programs

To increase awareness and use of the online tools among their intended audiences, we offer several award programs. Although participants may first open a tool to try to earn a scholarship or other award, many find that they gain pertinent information that provides even better financial returns.

Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship

Now in its fourth year, the Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship runs from fall through spring each year to award high school seniors with college scholarships while providing important knowledge on planning and paying for college. To qualify, students must complete Student Loan Game Plan, ROCI Reality Check and a related assessment. The 30 students who score highest on the assessment each receive a $2,000 scholarship, an increase from $1,500 in previous years. New during the 2015-2016 program year, each winner's high school receives a corresponding award of $500. Recipients are recognized by Gov. Terry Branstad and Iowa Student Loan board members and executives during an award ceremony each spring.

The 2016–2017 Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship runs Nov. 1, 2016–Feb. 17, 2017. As of Nov. 30, 2016, approximately 1,040 high school seniors had registered and nearly 360 had completed all three elements to qualify for a scholarship.

Save Now, Save Later: College Savings Plan Parent Giveaway

For the third year in a row, parents of Iowa high school students in grades nine, 10, 11 or 12 were able to enter the Save Now, Save Later: College Savings Plan Parent Giveaway drawing for a contribution into a college savings plan after they experience the parent version of Student Loan Game Plan. We again worked directly with College Savings Iowa on the giveaway, which awarded 30 $1,500 deposits in 2016.

Come 2 Iowa Senior Scholarship

The Come 2 Iowa Senior Scholarship awards college scholarships to high school seniors from Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota or Wisconsin intending to attend college in Iowa the following fall. In 2016, two recipients each received a $1,000 scholarship for completing Student Loan Game Plan and ROCI Reality check and achieving one of the top scores on a related assessment.

The 2017 program, which opens Feb. 13, has been expanded to offer five awards of $1,000 each.

College Funding Forecaster Contest

A new award program will be launched in spring 2017 to heighten awareness of the College Funding Forecaster among high school seniors and their parents. The contest will feature weekly drawings for small awards to be used for college expenses and two grand prizes of $1,500 college scholarships.

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