Building upon its decision to freeze tuition and fees for the 2013-2014 academic year, Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) continues to implement additional strategies that teach financial literacy and stewardship and streamline financial award refund processes for students.

At last week's meeting of the NICC Board of Trustees, Dr. Linda Peterson, vice president of student services, discussed several new ways the College is increasing its efforts to improve financial aid literacy among students.

"We know we have a lot of students leaving the College with financial debt. Students already know about financial aid and awards, but we want to help students understand how they're planning to use their financial aid award money," Peterson said.

Peterson and financial aid personnel plan to expand their outreach to students who are awarded financial aid with the goal of increasing student success, financial aid literacy and degree completion.

Several outreach strategies include one-on-one contact with students whose financial aid may be discontinued because of attendance problems, visiting classrooms to speak to students and sending additional financial aid educational information to coincide more closely with aid disbursements to students. Educational information includes basic student loan facts, how interest on loans is calculated according to the terms of individual loans and how much money students need to set aside for living expenses while paying back a loan.

"What we are interested in seeing is more students staying in their academic programs and finishing successfully," NICC President Dr. Liang Chee Wee said. "We also want to teach students better resource management."

Another key financial literacy initiative involves the College's move to contract with Higher One®, a financial services company which provides refund management and student-focused money management services to higher education institutions.

Starting in August, students will receive an NICC Blue Card that offers the option to have financial aid refunds deposited directly into a current checking account or a new account established with Higher One. Students may also opt to use the NICC Blue Card as a debit card or not participate in the program and continue to receive paper check financial refunds in the mail, according to Heidi Herold, NICC financial services coordinator.

"Higher One puts great emphasis on financial literacy, and they have a lot of resources available for students," Herold said.

In contracting with Higher One, NICC joins several other two- and four-year colleges in Iowa which also utilize the company's services for their students.

In her Trustee report, member Ronda Kirkegaard stated that she will not seek re-election to the Board this September and plans to retire. Kirkegaard has served on the Board of Trustees, representing District 9 and the Dubuque Community School District, for 15 years.

Four Trustees are up for election in the Sept. 10 school board election. The Trustees and the districts they represent include: John Rothlisberger, District 1; Kathy Gunderson, District 2; Gene Fuelling, District 4; and David Schueller, District 6.

In other Board action, the Trustees approved continued contracts with two law firms that advise and represent the College, Simmons Perrine Moyer Bergman PLC, of Cedar Rapids, and Wilmarth, Van Der Maaten, Belay and Fretheim of Decorah. Simmons Perrine Moyer Bergman PLC provides legal counsel to NICC on employment and personnel issues, and Wilmarth, Van Der Maaten, Belay and Fretheim provides legal counsel on contractual matters for the College.

Kristin Dietzel, NICC executive director of institutional effectiveness, discussed plans to work with cabinet members to align strategic priorities with targets in the next year, monitoring progress on strategic priorities and evaluating the success of objectives and their outcomes more effectively.

"Fiscal year 2014 priorities include fall-to-fall retention, increases in enrollment, working with human resources on its job position classification and compensation study and, hopefully, developing strategies that will enable the College to freeze tuition and fees for students for an additional year," Dietzel said.

At the meeting, NICC Vice President of Business and Community Solutions Dr. Wendy Mihm-Herold requested Board approval for preliminary agreements through the 260E Iowa New Jobs Training Program with four companies in the College's district. The Board approved the following agreements with the businesses and estimated issuance for the training certificates: CarteGraph Systems, Inc., of Dubuque, $282,000, for 16 jobs; Honkamp Krueger & Co., P.C., of Dubuque, $88,000, for 11 jobs; Reel Core, Inc., of Waukon, $85,000, for 26 jobs; and TriState Metals, of Peosta, $45,000, for nine jobs. The preliminary agreements are projected to create 72 total jobs, a strong start for fiscal year 2014.

The Board approved the hiring of Jennifer Bentley for the full-time position of animal husbandry manager and herdsperson at the Dairy Center, Jeff (Curley) Todd as the full-time cafeteria manager and Julie Uhlenhake as technical support/helpdesk, all in Calmar.