Innovator Spotlight: Edquity

Edquity provides college financial planning and success platforms for students

Each year, more than three million students drop out of college due to financial difficulties while a new student goes into student loan default every 29 seconds. Students of color, low-income students, and adult learners are disproportionately affected by these alarming trends. This is happening at a time when education and skills training are becoming increasingly critical for job placement and a chance at social mobility in the United States.

David Helene began to investigate this inequality during his time at The Clearing House Association, a financial trade association representing the interests of the nation’s largest commercial banks. He had taken the job on the brink of the 2008 financial crisis and had been tasked to look into the systemic risk in the financial system. It didn’t take long for him to see similarities between the risks of the housing market leading up to the crisis and the risk the student debt system was placing on individuals. David saw a stark difference his own student debt free experience and the individuals he was researching. However, he recognized that his experience was rare. Many students were struggling to pay for their education. Few resources existed for those that fell on hard financial times during their studies.

As a person that has always been interested in the issue of inequality and its relationship to social justice, David wanted to do something. His vision was larger than just keeping students in school but stretched to addressing the systemic inequality that is seeping into the higher education system. It is not news that minority groups have been historically disenfranchised from financial services, but the ramifications of this reality on the ability to plan and pay for higher education are just now being explored in depth.

Disrupting the Status Quo

In 2014, David co-founded the non-profit UniFi Scholars which provided college financial planning education to low-income students. This work took David directly into the classroom, offering over 300 students just-in-time intervention to set them on a path toward college success. The time in the classroom was paying off but it was limited to only those in the room. He continued to look into ways to scale the idea to make a larger impact. He wanted an approach that supported students not just up until college but also through college and the inevitable financial obstacles along that road.

Edquity was launched in 2016 as the first financial success solution in higher education that offered a safety net – and emergency aid – as a core tenet. The app monitors students’ financial health and gives them the ability to track how many days they have before they run out of money. Additionally, anticipating that students will run into some sort of financial hardship along the way, the app provides resources in times of need. One such resource is emergency aid, which offers a lifeline to those that would otherwise be faced with no other choice but to defer their education and drop out.

Moving Forward

Edquity is launching an innovative pilot in partnership with the Dallas County Community College District, a district of 90,000 students. The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice will be conducting a formal research study to assess the efficacy of direct emergency grants to students. As the company gains more insight and proven techniques, it hopes to continue its push to transform the student financial services space and attract more capital to the market of emergency aid provision. In addition, David and his team continue to make strides toward their mission to help individuals rise up financially and graduate from college.

About YouthCan Innovation Program:

Edquity was selected as an Innovator in the Principal Foundation Youth Can Innovation Program, an initiative in partnership with the Financial health Network dedicated to furthering organizations that propose big ideas to help youth achieve economic opportunity and financial health. As a featured innovator, Edquity received a grant of $150,000, as well as ongoing mentorship from Financial Health Network and the Principal Foundation.

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