College is highly sought after by many high school graduates. Yet, the competitiveness and tuition costs create many challenges that can prevent even the most qualified students from attending. With an annual tuition cost of $10,740 for in-state, 4-year public institutions, many families struggle to provide their children with opportunities to achieve higher education. As a result, they turn to scholarships, student loans, and grants for assistance. But with so many potential options, it can be challenging to determine what best suits a student’s needs and what form of aid they qualify for.
What if there was an easy and convenient way for students to access all the information they need to make pursuing a higher education a reality? What if students could work with college-focused organizations or programs that pointed them in the right direction toward finding much-needed funding? The state of Illinois has just the program – the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC Illinois).
The Purpose of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission
As previously stated, attending college often comes with a hefty price tag – inflation, decreased state funding, and increased salaries for faculty and staff can be attributed to the high cost of obtaining higher education.
Luckily, in 1957, Illinois created the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to provide affordable counseling and educational services to students. Government officials sought to ensure that students weren’t denied access to colleges or universities due to a lack of financial resources for Illinois college tuition. To this day, the commission works to achieve this goal by providing prepaid tuition, scholarships, and student forgiveness programs, among many other services.
Creating Digital Connections Among Members
A sense of overwhelm can quickly appear when looking through the commission’s list of available services and programs for students and families unfamiliar with ISAC Illinois. Where do you begin your search? What advisors or group facilitators should you contact first? Are other students going through the same struggles as you? Is there a community of individuals that you can rely on for advice or external support?
To help individuals navigate the process and create a connected community, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission launched digital books for three communities – current members, alumni, and their first-generation scholars. Not only did the books allow members from each group to learn more about one another, but it also allowed them to gain valuable insight into the advantages that the commission has given to other students who are, or have been, in a similar situation regarding Illinois college tuition. These books were an excellent way to increase engagement and provide a space to share personal stories and experiences.
Participants were encouraged to answer various questions – pre-selected topics were dependent on the audience of each book. With the primary purpose of obtaining members’ status updates and collecting their thoughts on what it meant to be part of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, examples of questions and prompts included:
- What’s your current place of employment?
- Where do you live?
- Where are you attending college?
- How I can help...
- The kind of help I’m looking for includes...
Students were able to not only form meaningful digital connections that helped exude a sense of community, but they were also able to become more knowledgeable about the different resources at their disposal.
Using BrightCrowd to Encourage Community Engagement
Managing large groups of individuals is no easy feat, and getting these groups to participate in any organized initiative is even more challenging – that’s why the commission turned to BrightCrowd. Using BrightCrowd’s online platform, the organization was able to set up a unique digital book for each of its communities.
Within minutes, the books’ organizers inserted their custom questions and prompts and immediately sent invitations to join. Participants were encouraged to fill out their pages, which were instantly accessible to those with access to the respective book. Not only did this reduce the number of resources the organization needed to allocate toward encouraging engagement, but it also allowed them to organize data more effectively and efficiently.
ISAC Illinois has seen a healthy participation rate among its communities, particularly with Corps Con 2023. Despite recently launching, the book has already achieved a participation rate of 99% – to complement its engagement efforts, the organization used a well-known team leader to send out book invitations. Meanwhile, the alumni book has nearly 30% participation in the first month. The numbers don’t lie! Present and former members are actively interacting with the organization and fellow members alike.
Using BrightCrowd, the Illinois Student Assistance Commission continues to help its members build digital connections. And by utilizing its cost-effective services, the organization can focus on its effort to provide affordable counseling and educational services for those seeking higher education.
Contact BrightCrowd today to learn more about creating a sense of community to help further your organization’s mission.