In 2011, I had the opportunity to do a brief stint teaching history and economics to high school juniors and seniors. It was an incredible experience working with a diverse group of students, many of whom came from challenging backgrounds. Despite the many obstacles thrown their way early in life, these students displayed resilience and a contagious enthusiasm for the future. It was a joy and honor of a lifetime to serve as their teacher for this brief period, and while I’m sure most of them have forgotten me by now, I will never forget them and the lasting impact they had on me.
RaiseMe was born from this experience, from conversations I had with my students as well as hundreds of college counseling professionals and college administrators over the ensuing year. At the crux of the idea was a simple observation: though billions of dollars of financial aid are being awarded each year to help students pay for college, these dollars aren’t typically awarded until after students are supposed to have already decided whether and where to apply to college. For students, this is often too late to impact their college ambitions and application decisions, and for colleges it means that they are missing out on an opportunity to maximize the impact of their aid resources. The idea behind RaiseMe was to flip this model on its head by giving students the opportunity to accrue college scholarships as they progress throughout high school based on their achievement of specific college readiness milestones.
In theory, this could create a much more transparent, motivating, and empowering system for students, while also giving colleges an opportunity to dramatically increase the impact of their aid. Additionally, participating colleges would have an opportunity to engage prospective students as early as 9th grade. They can use this opportunity for connection to incentivize the college readiness behaviors they’ve seen prepare students for their school, foster a more diverse applicant pool through a more targeted use of funds, and ultimately help all prospective students see past the college sticker price earlier in their journey.
In 2013, we launched our first pilot of the program, giving students the opportunity to earn “micro-scholarships” as they progressed through high school, rather than as one big lump sum upon admittance. From the get-go, the program received great reviews from students, counselors, and colleges alike, and won multiple awards such as the Gates Foundation-sponsored College Knowledge Challenge.
Students shared their excitement about seeing how their hard work in high school was rewarded by colleges. High school counselors shared their excitement about having a new college readiness tool that could help teach students about institutional scholarships, while also motivating their students to stay on track for college. Finally, colleges loved the idea of engaging with students earlier, and were excited to see the diversity of students participating in the program. As the company scaled, we worked diligently to respond to user feedback and harvest learnings from academic research to iterate on and improve the platform, while also scaling to meet the growing demand from students, educators, and universities.
Over the past seven years, the platform has grown tremendously: RaiseMe has served over 2.5 million students who have received over $6 billion in scholarships. In that time, we have brought on over 300 college and university partners, while also introducing countless new college discovery and financial aid comparison features, a mobile app for iOS, and a platform for community college and transfer students.
This spring, CampusLogic approached us with an offer to put our organizations together. This appeared to be a great opportunity to bring together two of the leading champions for Student Financial Success. By combining RaiseMe, which primarily focused on pre-college financial and academic readiness, and CampusLogic, which focused on supporting students during their higher ed journey, the combined organization would be uniquely capable of supporting students both to and through college.
As the exploration progressed, it became clear that the strengths of our two organizations could drive an even larger impact for students and college partners. With RaiseMe’s micro-scholarship platform driving empowerment and motivation for students via pre-committed financial aid, and CampusLogic’s market-leading Student Financial Success solutions driving ease and clarity in college financing, we’ll be able to create new, tightly integrated experiences together that unlock massive potential for students and institutions alike.
As we come together to meet the higher education challenges of today, it’s critical — for the success of students, for the institutions serving them, and for our nation as a whole — that students from all backgrounds have a clear and affordable path to college. We look forward to working with our current partners and the new partners we’ll be welcoming in the years ahead to reimagine the student financial journey and make sure that every student has a shot at the American Dream.