Student Money Management Center program coordinator Lupita Hernandez wanted all students at Sam Houston State University to receive financial education. They had faced challenges reaching their online students and those who attended the Woodlands center, a classroom building about 40 miles from the main campus. To help remedy this, the SMMC put together an online scholarship contest to engage these students with financial education.
Hernandez explains, “We started the scholarship contest to reach our online, graduate, and Woodlands students. We have a center where students can come and get a consultation with one of our peer students or one of our staff. Our office, including the peer mentors, are all AFC certified counselors. We didn’t feel like we were reaching students who aren’t on the main campus, so we are trying to extend financial literacy to them and motivate them with the scholarship contest.”
The scholarship contest uses CashCourse online coursework modules. By keeping the contest digital, the contest was accessible to any SHSU student.
“They have to complete three modules. We chose the three modules that we felt were critical for any college student or any person to be financially literate: Money Basics, Credit Savvy, and Paying Back Student Loans. They have to complete all three with at least an 80% or better to enter the scholarship drawing. The drawing winner gets a $450 scholarship,” Hernandez says.
In order to get the word out, they were very deliberate with their marketing. The SMMC used multiple channels of communication and tailored strategies to their audiences.
Hernandez explains, “We were very intentional about marketing. For our online students, we included CashCourse on the homepage of SHSU’s Blackboard. We also marketed it at our graduate orientation with a mini flyer explaining the rules. We had about 100 people there. We made sure to tell these graduate students about the services of CashCourse and student money management. We even had Sam Houston’s public relations department digital newspaper wrote a story about the contest.'
By using CashCourse in the scholarship, Hernandez also hopes to introduce students to the money management tool.
“This resource is literally at their fingertips and most of our students love anything digital. We also wanted to run the contest so they knew CashCourse was available. They can find CashCourse through our SMMC website. The contest has two purposes: to increase financial literacy and to make students aware that there is a wonderful, free tool for them to use,” Hernandez says.
This is the first year they have tried the contest, but plan to use this year’s results as a baseline for another contest in the spring semester. When asked on advice for other schools implementing a scholarship contest, Hernandez emphasized marketing and incentives.
Hernandez explains, “Offering scholarships brings attention to the contest. That is a big motivator and a big component needed to be successful. You need to market the contest and cover the appropriate bases with your demographic. We’ve sent fliers to our graduate level professors at the university and have used Blackboard for our online students. We’ve done TV promos for our Woodlands center students. These are played in the building and we have put up fliers to be posted in the building. Do everything that can be done to personalize marketing.”
The contest is designed to help students learn money management skills, but the prize makes it even more meaningful to Hernandez in that it will help a student pay for their school.
“By completing CashCourse, students will gain essential money skills that will help them with making life decisions. In addition, our winner should be able to reduce their student loan debt with the prize money,” Hernandez says.