We offer a one-stop college financial success platform, supporting students through every financial decision on the road to graduation.
I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
I am over 18 years of age
My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States
Where are you making a difference?
New York, New York
Rio Grande Valley, Texas
Los Angeles, California
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Start-Up (first few activities have happened)
Website or social media URL(s) (optional)
1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.
Before Edquity, our founder founded a non-profit college access org for low-income high school students offering programming at the intersection of financial literacy and college success. In that role, he worked with 400 students in the classroom where the final project was an excel spreadsheet mapping out the next 10 years of students' lives financially -- including factors like projected debt:income ratio given colleges and careers of interest, grad rates, loan repayment prospects, and how students would survive college. He saw how difficult that exercise was for students given the disaggregation, opacity and complexity of information. He was also worried about survival at college and navigating recurring milestones like FAFSA completion.
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Of the 50% of college students who drop out, 70% do so for financial reasons, making it by far the number one driver of dropout; at the same time, a new student goes into student loan default every 29 seconds. These outcomes are disproportionately concentrated among low-income students and students of color. A college degree is as critical as its ever been, and yet college is directly setting millions of students up for financial failure.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Edquity first prescribes a list of financially optimal four-year colleges or two-to-four year pathways for students based on their individual academic and financial circumstances and factors like projected debt, debt-to-income ratio, projected earnings by school and career path, graduation and transfer rates, unique support systems like food pantries, social mobility, unemployment rate, and percentage of students who are able to repay their debt. Next, it automates the development of a financial plan for college success for each school based on students' spending preferences, living circumstances and needs, the geographic cost of living, work availability, and true financial aid. Edquity then supports students through the electronic submission of their financial aid with our turbotax-for-FAFSA product. It then helps students interpret and use their financial aid award letters to update their financial plans for college success to inform their college decision. Finally, it bridges the gap between intention and action by integrating students' bank and spending accounts to offer cash-flow management support and help streamline access to emergency resources like emergency aid.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.
Edquity has been used in high schools with over 1,500 students, helping seniors in high school translate and understand their financial aid awards to ensure they optimize for their enrollment and financing decisions. Multiple seniors, having used Edquity to understand their financial aid awards, have vocalized how they would not have applied to their schools had they known upfront what the true cost would have been and how it helped them narrow down their final decision, with some students using the platform over 35 times in a month.
We've also run an analysis for IDEA Public Schools and found that their students have been applying to schools with significantly lower financial health scores than we otherwise would have recommended. As such we're going to expand to serve their entire junior and senior year classes to support students through financial choice, planning, & success.
5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?
Low-income high school students typically engage with the college process either in work with local non-profit college access organizations or their high school counselor. As such, we've been distributing Edquity through schools and non-profits to ensure we reach our students where they are and engage with them how they engage with this process. We're also now engaging college financial wellness centers at colleges serving mostly Pell students and are beginning partnership discussions with many.
5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:
6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?
Existing guidance platform leaders like Naviance and retention leaders like Civitas Learning are fragmented across K-12 and higher education and fail to support students around either financial planning or success. Those solutions that are focused on student financial health are fragmented by addressing only one piece of the very long college financial journey, with providers like Edmit focusing only on high level cost and choice and others like Frank focusing only on FAFSA completion. We are the first one-stop college financial success platform that helps students through every decision.
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
We've worked with over 1,500 students and have worked with partners that include the DC Public School District, the NYC Department of Education, IDEA Public Schools, YES Prep Schools, One Goal, the College Bound Initiative, SEO Scholars, and other partners that serve predominantly low-income students.
We've also received a grant from the Capital One Foundation to integrate a print FAFSA guide, which currently gets distributed to 90,000 students per year, into our digital FAFSA completion tool for students, and we'll be releasing this in October. Similarly, Wells Fargo will make use available to all 650,000 of their student customers starting in October.
8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?
We license to high schools, districts, college access organizations, and colleges. On a B2C basis, we target college information sites, like College Confidential, as a plug-in resource. We've begun similarly exploring partnership and integration conversations with college process gatekeepers like the College Board and Naviance as well as financial institutions. We've also had conversations with the Federal Gov. around partnership opportunities. At colleges, we've begun engaging financial wellness associations like HEFWA and will target consortiums and bodies that can facilitate scale.
8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?
Franchising, Licensing, Accreditation
Large Scale Partnerships
9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?
We sell annual licenses of Edquity as a SaaS platform to high schools ($15/student), non-profits ($10/student), and colleges. We also make it available on a B2C basis, where it is free to pell-eligible students and $79/year for students above that threshold. Over time, we intend to offer referral opportunities to retail and financial products through the app. We've raised $650k to date and plan to raise a $5MM series A round next year.
10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?
We are a full-time team of five, with 3 developers and a UX designer. We also have a part-time UX designer and a part-time UI designer. Once we've raised our seed round, we intend to onboard a sale representative, a customer success professional, an additional UX/UI designer, and an additional developer. In the short-term, we anticipate offering equity to offset cash compensation and will begin to offer more competitive salaries after our Series A.
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)
White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French)
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)
No, I do not identify with an underrepresented community
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