MTV and College Board Announce Student Finalists in the $100K ‘Get Schooled College Affordability Challenge’
WASHINGTON — A new research study commissioned by the College Board, Cracking the Student Aid Code, has found that early awareness and a simplified student aid process are key to navigating the federal financial aid system, especially at a time when U.S. students and their families face rising college prices and stagnant incomes. Based on extensive focus-group and survey research with parents and students, the study found that nearly half of the parent respondents did not know the cost of attending a public college in their home state, and only 44 percent of Latino parent respondents were aware of the Pell Grant program.
To address these and other challenges, the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center and MTV today convened a briefing on Capitol Hill with educators, state and federal policymakers, and business leaders. The discussion highlighted the financial barriers that students and parents face and how to reduce these barriers through a more student-centered, predictable and simpler federal financial aid system.
“Today’s confusing financial aid process is a roadblock to college access and completion for far too many students,” said College Board President Gaston Caperton. “Improving performance in higher education is critical to our country’s future. We can’t do that work without a simpler federal student aid system that is more effective for students.”
“A college degree is increasingly imperative, yet far too many young people are struggling to navigate the financial aid maze,” said Jason Rzepka, vice president of Public Affairs, MTV. “We were blown away by our audience’s creative ideas to address this challenge, and are proud to unveil the three finalists – one of which will go on to help young people nationwide connect with money they need to attain a college diploma.”
At the Capitol Hill briefing and the policy discussion, the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center presented:
- Get Schooled College Affordability Challenge. The Challenge, sponsored by the College Board and MTV, called on current and aspiring college students to imagine innovative digital tools to reimagine and simplify the financial aid process. The finalists, which were selected from hundreds of submissions from students in 48 states, include:
- The Avatar Project, by Larissa Simpson, a graduate student from New York University: An interactive gaming experience that helps students navigate the process of securing grants, scholarships and loans to finance their education. Users can personalize their experience using an avatar that guides them through each stage of the process. Positive reinforcement and guided connection with peers – through existing social networks – will encourage students to meet deadlines and fulfill their college financing goals.
- First Aid, by Dekunle Somade, a senior from the University of Maryland: A single-source online and SMS platform designed to serve as a college "on-ramp" for low-income students, simply organizing a wide array of financial aid and admissions information, as well as creating a new communications channel between institutional aid offices and those most in need. The platform will also facilitate and track users’ progress toward securing funding for school, and alert them to relevant scholarship and grant opportunities.
- Connect Fund, by Devin Valencia, a recent graduate from the University of Nevada Las Vegas: An interactive Facebook application offering an intuitive, step-by-step guide on how to fill out the FAFSA, as well as apply for grants, scholarships and loans. The application will prioritize financial aid opportunities based on the user's demographic information and enable them to get questions answered by friends and other application users.
Each finalist will have the opportunity to work with world-class innovation firm frog design to iterate their ideas during a two-week period of intense creative collaboration. Beginning in March, students will have the chance to vote for their favorite ideas. The winning individual or team will be rewarded with $10K and see their idea brought to life by MTV, the College Board and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, with a development budget of up to $100K.
- Cracking the Student Aid Code, a comprehensive study based on research with 1,000 parents and 1,250 students of low- and moderate-income backgrounds. The report underscores families’ urgent need for earlier information about the cost of college and the resources that are available to help them afford it.
- 70 percent of parent respondents and more than 90 percent of student respondents agreed that a college degree is more important than ever in this economy.
- College affordability and financial aid video that captures the parents and students at the Cracking the Student Aid Code focus groups talking about their experiences in navigating the financial aid system, the difficulty in paying for college, and the importance of higher education to their futures.
The Cracking the Student Aid Code research study was based on the recommendations of the Rethinking Student Aid study group, which were included in the College Board report Fulfilling the Commitment: Recommendations for Reforming Federal Student Aid. The research study underscores the need for policymakers, elected officials and higher education administrators to address the strong demand for a simpler, more predictable and more transparent federal student aid system that encourages students to prepare academically and financially for college success.
The Cracking the Student Aid Code research study is part of the College Board Advocacy & Policy Center’s effort to provide the latest information affecting college affordability and financial aid.
The College Board Advocacy & Policy Center
The College Board Advocacy & Policy Center was established to help transform education in America. Guided by the College Board’s principles of excellence and equity in education, the Center works to ensure that students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to succeed in college and beyond. Critical connections between policy, research and real-world practice are made to develop innovative solutions to the most pressing challenges in education today. Drawing from the experience of the College Board’s active membership consisting of education professionals from more than 5,900 institutions, priorities include: College Preparation & Access, College Affordability & Financial Aid, and College Admission & Completion. For more information, visit advocacy.collegeboard.org.
MTV is the world’s premier youth entertainment brand. With a global reach of more than a half-billion households, MTV is the cultural home of the millennial generation, music fans and artists, and a pioneer in creating innovative programming for young people. MTV reflects and creates pop culture with its Emmy®, Grammy® and Peabody® award-winning content built around compelling storytelling, music discovery and activism across TV, online and mobile. MTV’s sibling networks MTV2 and mtvU each deliver unparalleled customized content for young males, music fans and college students, and its online hub MTV.com is the leading destination for music, news and pop culture. MTV is part of MTV Networks, a unit of Viacom (NYSE: VIA, VIA.B), one of the world’s leading creators of programming and content across all media platforms. For more information, go to www.mtvpress.com.
The College Board, Stephanie Coggin, 212-713-8052, firstname.lastname@example.org