There’s a lot of confusion surrounding college costs in the U.S, and a main cause is misleading financial aid awards. Awards should notify students of aid that can be used to pay for college, but they’re so confusing that students commonly misinterpret or don’t use these documents when making their college plans. High and unplanned for costs lead students to take on piling debt and juggle multiple jobs while in college. It’s no surprise that 70% of college dropouts are linked to pressing financial concerns.
Moneythink, a U.S‑based nonprofit, brings cost transparency to an otherwise opaque financial aid process. They partnered with IDEO.org to brand a mobile and web application that helps low-income students understand and compare the affordability of college options, protecting them from unsustainable debt, and helping them find a supportive college with strong prospects for graduation.
We interviewed highschool students who had received award letters, as well as freshmen in college who had received financial aid coaching from Moneythink the previous year. Across the board, we heard them say they wanted ‘real talk’ from someone knowledgeable, like getting advice from that tell-it-as-it-is friend. They also wanted to feel confident, emboldened, and calm as they made one of the biggest decisions of their lives.
With input from coaches and students, and together with the Moneythink team, we landed on the name ‘DecidED’—a youthful brand with plenty of gravitas. The goal was to create an app that could bring levity and clarity to a weighty process.
DecidED demystifies a process that’s cryptic by design. After students upload their awards letters to the app, they can immediately compare school options. The most pressing information, like basic affordability, is presented at first glance. Colors and thumbs up/thumbs down markers help them make sense of costs (i.e., the green means affordable, yellow means somewhat affordable, and red means not affordable). As students and advisors scroll down, they access other relevant information about the school, like graduation rates or average salaries after graduation. By simplifying key aspects of college fit and helping users weigh them, students can move forward with confidence and optimism.
The period after the “D” in the logo represents that punctuated confidence of having made the right decision. It’s the end of an era and the first step toward college.
DecidED will be launched in October 2020 and will be free for all students nationwide. ScholarMatch, Richmond Promise, and the California Student Opportunity and Access program of San Jose will be among the first college advising organizations to integrate DecidED into programming, supporting an initial cohort of over 1500 students.