University of Indianapolis

Lezza Harman-Lineback, the adult client services specialist at the University of Indianapolis, applied for funds from the CashCourse Reimbursement Program to go towards their Financial Literacy Haunted House event. After receiving $600, they were able to augment their program from the previous year.

Harman-Lineback explains, “Financial literacy is a scary topic. You have to make it approachable and relatable. It can’t be the financial aid department in an ivory tower telling students what they should do. They should not be intimidated to approach us.”

“I hope the Financial Literacy Haunted House will plant a seed to make us more approachable, and that money management doesn’t have to be intimidating,” she says.

The Financial Literacy Haunted House covered scary money topics, like being a “forever student” and drowning in credit card debt. After passing through several scary money-themed rooms, students would end at the “light at the end of the tunnel,” a room filled with financial literacy resources, tips and services. CashCourse was highlighted as one of the resources available to students.

This was their second year putting on the Financial Literacy Haunted House; they found student and faculty reactions to be very positive. Students posting about the event on social media helped fuel the popularity and get the word out.

“We only had about 200 people go through in the first year, but there was very positive feedback. Even faculty and staff loved it and wanted to go through. I got asked early in the fall if we were going to do the haunted house again. This year the students were super pumped and our numbers reflect that. We got student mentions on social media and that word of mouth really helped drive visitors,” says Harman-Lineback.

In addition to student word-of-mouth, she also credits the financial aid office’s enthusiastic buy-in as a big contributor to the event’s success.

“A former coworker came up with the concept and the entire department loved it immediately. Having that buy-in from everyone was a huge key to our success. People were excited about it and were willing to dress up and commit for this idea. This was a group effort of the Financial Aid office and we had a whole team of people working on this. That includes our student employees!” says Harman-Lineback.

When asked about what advice she would give to other schools who are implementing a financial literacy event, Harman-Lineback emphasizes preparation.

“Get all of your needed information ahead of time. For instance, we had never gone through the process of getting an event approved for students to get credit. It is so helpful to know all of the deadlines so you can get everything submitted on time,” says Harman-Lineback.

When they missed a deadline for submitting a newspaper ad, she and the department were able to readjust and try different strategies to promote the event. Harman-Lineback stressed to not get discouraged by obstacles.

“Don’t let speedbumps stop you. We missed the deadline to get an ad in the newspaper, which was pretty disheartening. We kept moving forward, and it made us get creative. We started decorating bulletin boards and even turned one into a mummy. We had students dress up in costume and walk around campus to advertise the event,” explains Harman-Lineback.

The financial aid office also reached out to different departments on campus for assistance and expertise. They especially focused on departments that would be able to offer students real-life work experience through the partnership.

Harman-Lineback says, “Be sure to reach out to different departments and to not try to take on areas that aren’t in your wheelhouse. Our marketing department really helped us promote the program. We want to work with our experience design professors next year to work with their classes to design experiences for our events. This not only helps us but it gives our students an opportunity to gain work experience.”

The event was also shown support by the administration of the University of Indianapolis which Harman-Lineback emphasizes as critical to their efforts.

“I would love to mention that even our president went through the haunted house. He is super busy, but he still showed his support for the event. Our administration supports our efforts and that is very important,” says Harman-Lineback.

January 2017