Bridge to College Fundraising Launch

by Vielka

The other day, I was mulling over some of the data around tech startups, and African American and Latina founders: something like 1% of these companies are founded by women of color.  Of that 1% about 12% get funding from venture capital. Sometimes that data set is inspiring. And honestly, sometimes it isn’t…

I started talking about my fundraising round that way because it certainly would have been much easier to not do anything or to do something safe.  There are plenty of technologies out there that don’t require much science behind them. So if I was going to already be on that uphill, I could just give myself a good set of walking somethings.  

But I remember back to the day I had to take my math placement exam for Education majors at NYU.  We were in a large auditorium and were told to have the Math ed majors sit on one side, and everyone else on the other.  The Math ed majors were going to get the full-tilt boogie exam with the advanced Calculus. I knew I wanted to be a History teacher but I wanted to take the full-tilt boogie exam with the advanced Calculus.  

I didn’t know it back then but that confusion would turn out to be a good thing–where social, learning, and data sciences meet.  And I get to build algorithms. The short of it is that I get to do something that requires a unique skill set.

The benefit is difficult science is perfect to address difficult problems.  

The difficult problem here is that we are using a system that intentionally puts students into tremendous debt.

And we can do something about it.

Bridge to College developed out of a passion for ensuring young people have the access to the education they are wanting.  While that seems pretty simple, it really isn’t.

  • 60% of students will actually graduate from college.  And that’s in six years.
  • 11% of underserved college students will actually graduate from college.
  • And 70% of college graduates will leave with crippling debt.

As a high school teacher, I would give them everything and when I could, I would introduce lesson I received in undergrad and grad school.  But then, years later, I would run into former students working at a minimum wage part-time job, and ask what happened. They would say:

  • Someone at my high school said I couldn’t afford college.
  • I only applied to one school and I wasn’t admitted.
  • My parents and I aren’t able to take out loans.
  • I didn’t know when I was supposed to apply.
  • I am still taking colleges at the community college, five years later.
  • I needed to make money now and I’ll think about college later.

While most of those issues are valid, they are not disqualifying.  And that was understanding I proceeded with.

The first thing I realized is that the shifts we are feeling is not an accident.  When Sallie Mae was allowed to privatize in 2004, this meant that they could lend far and above what students were needing and that colleges did not have to meet the financial need of the students.  And when a student defaults on a student loan, it follows them for life (this can’t be discharged in bankruptcy). But more importantly, the federal government will still pay the university the amount of the loan that the student defaulted on.

This means that some universities have a huge incentivize to pile on the debt.

While this shift has happened, the current way in which students are matched to colleges–via the SAT–has not changed.  These are adaptive problems that are being solved with static solutions.  That’s where Bridge to College comes in.

There are a lot of colleges that want students to attend their universities because the student actually wants to go.  

There are a lot of colleges that have the means to not hike up the debt.

There are colleges that want diverse voices in their schools.

We just have to make sure you know about them.

Bridge to College uses some fancy science to

  • Match students to the colleges that will graduate them and fund them by using data points that are actually good predictors of college success. We paid special attention to shifts in the economy, law, society…anything! And are using this pilot to see which model works best.
  • Provide the reporting to colleges so that they can increase those rates.
  • Provide the reporting to high schools so that they can support students.

It really is that simple but it hasn’t been done.  We are revolutionizing education…and we need your help.

We started a fundraising round to get the funding to conduct a pilot.  Currently we are looking to pilot the app this winter with middle and high schools.  If you have a connection to a middle or high school and would like us to present to them, please let me know.  The pilot is free. And the app is always free for students and families.

We are also working with colleges during this pilot.  Currently we are talking to the UCs, CSUs, and some privates.  We want to make sure we are perfecting our academic, financial, and social fit metrics and providing the correct data sets to all of our stakeholders, parents included.  This is the fun and super nerdy part. Developing this with my colleagues at the Stanford Graduate School of Education has been really worthwhile and inspiring.

To date, Bridge to College has been bootstrapped by me using personal funds and revenue from my first business, Vielka Hoy Consulting.  This has been difficult at times, especially being a single parent. But I think the app and the tools are important and I know we are headed in the right direction.  

Here’s how you can help:

  • Share with your networks over social media or email.  Give us a like or follow too!  Let’s develop a little buzz and it helps us to know what is most important to you.
  • Be an angel investor.  There really isn’t an amount that is too small to invest.
  • Ask your local middle or high school to participate in the pilot.  The more students we have, the better modeling we can do.

Questions?  Let’s talk more! 

Or you can use some of the toolkits below:

Toolkit for sharing and investing

Toolkit for middle and high schools, and parents

 

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