Gov. Terry E. Branstad, Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Student Loan leaders recognized today 20 Iowa high school seniors who each won a $1,500 college scholarship through participation in the Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship, administered by Iowa Student Loan. The high school seniors from across the state were recognized in a special award ceremony at the Iowa Capitol.
This was the first year Iowa Student Loan offered the Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship, which provided Iowa high school seniors the chance to win $1,500 for college while learning important financial literacy skills.
Between December 2013 and February 2014, registered high school seniors were asked to complete two online financial literacy tutorials -- Student Loan Game Plan and the ROCI Reality Check -- which Iowa Student Loan developed to help students understand the consequences of college borrowing and discover how to maximize their return on college investment, or ROCI. In addition, scholarship contenders were required to take an online financial literacy assessment test created by Ednalysis, an Iowa educational research company. Scholarship winners were determined from those who earned top scores on the assessment test.
At today's award ceremony, Branstad congratulated the students and thanked them for seeing the value in furthering their education and learning financial responsibility.
"College should be an exciting time, but in recent years, it's become increasingly stressful for Iowans. I understand that today, more than ever, students and families need help managing the increasing costs of college," Branstad said. "Thanks to Iowa Student Loan and its programs, we are educating more students on how to make wise financial decisions when paying for college."
The Iowa Financial Know-How Challenge: Senior Scholarship was created to provide an additional funding source for college-bound seniors, as well as educate them on ways to minimize their borrowing for college and reach the financial potential of a college degree, said Christine Hensley, Iowa Student Loan board chair.
"We witness firsthand the pressures Iowa students and families are facing to finance higher education," Hensley said. "We wanted to offer a scholarship opportunity for which all Iowa high school seniors could qualify because we feel it's important every student understand the true investment and cost of college."
This past legislative session, Branstad and Reynolds stressed that more must be done to ease students' college debt burden. Branstad told the scholarship winners and their families that he and Reynolds worked to again freeze tuition for Iowa students at the Regent institutions and boost the Iowa Tuition Grant for students attending Iowa's private colleges and universities.
"Encouraging students to earn a college degree or other postsecondary credential is essential, but so is managing the cost," said Reynolds. "To truly address the high debt levels of our state's college students, it's going to take the efforts of everyone -- government, schools, nonprofit organizations, the private sector and families. We're pleased to have been able to freeze tuition in consecutive years for the first time in 35 years, but we know we must continue our work to ensure out Iowa students understand the implications of student debt."
More than 60 people attended Monday's award ceremony, including 16 of the 20 scholarship winners and their families. Branstad presented each winner with an award certificate; the $1,500 scholarship money can be used at the college or university of the winner's choice in fall 2014. After the presentation, the students and their families were hosted for lunch at the State Historical Museum.
Hensley had the following congratulatory words for the scholarship winners. "All of you are sitting here today because you proved your financial literacy knowledge. On behalf of Iowa Student Loan, I thank you for taking your college education seriously, and because you do, I know your futures are bright," she said.