College is expensive. And it’s getting more expensive every day. I attend Purdue University (the Indiana University) as an in-state student and my estimated cost (including housing, books and expenses) is over $21,000. Every. Year. That’s right, for a public institution in the state which I have lived all my life. I am lucky enough to receive scholarships and grants to help me afford this great education, but getting to that point is tricky business.
Who should you turn to for help filling out FAFSFA? If you don’t receive scholarship money from your college or university, how can you get some from outside foundations? What is the difference between a grant and a loan? Should you apply for a governmental loan or get one through your local bank? These are some of the many questions in the financial aid process that often do not get answered and limit students from getting the funding they should, which can ultimately decide the fate of students across the country.
That’s where MTV comes in. Besides just bringing you the always witty Jersey Shore banter, they are also teaming up with College Board and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to make college completion a reality for more students. MTV’s latest social good campaign, “The Get Schooled College Affordability Challenge” is a competition between three twenty-somethings looking to use the newest technologies to help students with the pesky FAFSFA and scholarship application forms.
The winner will get $10,000 and a $100,000 budget to see their project come to life. The three finalists all have differing creative ideas, but they all use one of the leading media today. One finalist, Devin Valencia, is a 24-year-old graduate of University of Nevada, Las Vegas. She wants to create 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 app will prioritize financial aid opportunities based on the user’s demographic information and enable them to get questions answered by friends and other app users.”
If you could get students to use it, it could be extremely effective. Virtually all high school and college students use Facebook already and apps such as Farmville has millions of subscribers. Users could then have all of their financial aid questions answered on a platform they already use faithfully. Better than that, it would be completely interactive meaning if your question wasn’t already posted, you would have the opportunity to ask it and still receive feedback without having to sit on hold with the Bursar’s office of your chosen university for hours.
The other two contestants’ ideas include an interactive gaming experience using an avatar to guide them through the process and an SMS platform that would create a new avenue for communication between the institutional offices and the students.
The cost of college is astronomical, but there is money available for those with legitimate need or niche interests. I know a student who received $5,000 from a scholarship set up if you attended a certain high school and went to a certain college. But you have to know where to look, and thanks to MTV, College Board and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, very soon you won’t have to look too far.
Photo credit: via Flickr by katrinalopez