Scholarship Programs Are a Missed Opportunity for EdTech Startups

June 14, 2016 - 3 minutes read

EdTech startups

The scholarship system offsetting the ballooning cost of a US college degree is undeniably broken. Can EdTech startups and mobile app developers offer solutions to help students pursue their futures?

Workplace studies routinely find a staggering difference in income potential between a college graduate and someone with only a high school degree. Overall, college degree-holders earn double their high school-level counterparts — which translates to an average million dollars in income over the course of a lifetime, if a new study from Georgetown University is to be believed.

…Considering that the cost of that million dollars is a substantial $100,000–300,000 or so in tuition and expenses up front at most US universities, it’s no surprise that the college application season unleashes a paper-pulp tidal wave of scholarship applications from students unfortunate enough to be left without parental support. And while it’s commonly believed that millions in scholarship money goes unclaimed every year, a new report from TechCrunch illustrates that the situation is actually much more complex than that. Between the practice of deducting outside scholarships from tuition benefits and complex terms attached to university-sponsored grants, getting a scholarship to offset the steep price is significantly less likely than pundits would have you believe.

While Houston iPhone app developers have offered a few solutions over the past few years, the space is mostly cluttered with lowest-common-denominator listing apps that merely consolidate the deluge of applications — which doesn’t do much to solve the user’s problem, since most of these scholarships function more like sweepstakes than grants, offering small prizes for generic essays in hopes of snagging as much contact information as possible. Whether or not the system is as rigged as it’s presented in by TechCrunch, there’s no denying that the system is time-consuming and risk-heavy.

Some enterprising EdTech startups are thinking outside the box, however. Groups like DoSomething.org and Raise.me break the typical model by monetizing community service and academic milestones, creating entirely new models that provide success-promoting structures.

Education may be broken, but EdTech mobile app developers who create positive-impact frameworks for students — rather than simply piggybacking on existing programs — could have some big wins in this largely empty market space.

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