Returner’s reward contest motivates students

Hastings College’s first Returners Reward Contest has selected its winners. Myla Graae was drawn as the grand prize winner, with Avery Sears and Max Moreno drawn for second and third prize, respectively.

The Student Life department first announced the contest on March 31, encouraging students to complete the procedural administrative processes in preparation for the fall 2017 semester. This includes registering for fall and J-Term classes, submitting housing paperwork, completing the FAFSA and financial aid paperwork, and having an account in good standing with the business office. If a student had completed all of that information, he or she was eligible for the Returners Reward Contest.

Traci Boeve, director of Financial Aid, introduced the idea of a contest in order to pique student interest and streamline the fall registration processes from multiple campus offices, including faculty advisors, Student Life, Financial Aid and the Business Office.

“I think all of our offices working together makes us work smarter,” Boeve said.

Boeve modeled the contest on another school’s incentive program. Kansas Wesleyan University offers students a $1,000 scholarship for completing such paperwork with timeliness. Boeve said Kansas Wesleyan is a school of similar size to HC, recruiting many out-of-state students, as well.

Boeve also mentioned that the first part of the school year is very busy for everyone on campus, and she hopes that reaching students before they leave for summer break can ensure a smoother return in the fall.

“The more we can get done in May before students (leave) for the summer, the easier the school year can get started off for them,” Boeve said.

In addition to Returner Rewards and the new financial aid portal, the U.S. Department of Education introduced early FAFSA filing and using 2015 tax information, shifting the Financial Aid Office’s timeline.

“All three things encouraged students to do things earlier and more independently, so we are way ahead of FAFSAs from this year to last year on all students, not just returning students,” Boeve said.

Dan Peters, vice president for Student Life, added that streamlining the processes helps staff spend less time tracking down students to complete paperwork.

“There’s a savings to the institution there, too, in terms of opportunity costs,” Peters said. “There are a lot of gains to be had in just administrative time by people being proactive and doing this in advance.”

Both Boeve and Peters hope that an incentive such as the Returners Reward Contest will improve HC’s student retention in addition to timely paperwork completion.

According to Peters, the contest winners were chosen at random from a spreadsheet of returning students. Once a winner was chosen, Peters made sure that student had finished paperwork from each office.

“It took us close to 15 draws to get to three individuals who had completed everything,” Peters said.

The Office of Student Life budget is funding the winners’ prizes. Grand prize winner Graae has chosen a $600 Bronco Bookstore gift certificate.

“With that, I won’t have to save this summer to pay for my books, and I can buy some awesome Hastings College gear before I graduate. This was a very difficult choice for me. There were so many good options to pick from,” Graae said.

Peters said he hopes students had fun with the contest. It was designed not to be a burden but to create some excitement around paperwork that can be tedious, overwhelming or difficult to understand.

“We were hoping to take those things students don’t normally get excited about and flip that, adding some positive energy. I hope that’s what we achieved with this,” Peters said.

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