SALT LAKE CITY – WGU Labs, a subsidiary of the nonprofit online Western Governors University (WGU), has entered into a research and services agreement with Edquity to measure the effects of its emergency financial aid platform, which will be offered to a portion of WGU’s students beginning spring of 2020.
The Brooklyn-based company is the first business to engage WGU Labs’ newly launched business accelerator, which is designed to help innovative education businesses grow their impact in the education market.
“WGU Labs provides education technology businesses with research and development services that drive organizational growth,” said Todd Bloom, WGU Labs managing director. “And we focus our support on companies that have demonstrated—at an early stage—their commitment to social impact and scalability. Edquity exemplifies these attributes.”
Edquity’s core product supports college students who are highly at risk of dropping out due to financial challenges. Its goal is to make emergency fund disbursements—typically originating from institutions’ safety net programs—more efficient. As issues like food and housing insecurity disproportionately impact low-income students, students of color, LGBTQ students, and adult learners, Edquity’s platform is focused on improving educational outcomes and economic mobility for students from these backgrounds.
“Given the extremely precarious financial circumstances of most college students—50 percent of whom suffer from issues like food or housing insecurity—it can take as little as a $200 shock to completely upend a student’s experience,” said David Helene, founder and CEO of Edquity. “Students can encounter hardships that induce dropout and potentially lead to loan default, and they often don’t even realize that their school provides emergency funds.”
WGU Labs will research how the Edquity app is used by a portion of its more than 120,000 students and analyze if and how the efficient disbursement of emergency funds impacts student retention and perceptions of institutional support. Additionally, WGU Labs will examine how other student support features within the app are valued by users, such as the aggregation of social services in students’ areas of residence that makes it easy to connect with local resources.
With an annual tuition of approximately $6,500 for most undergraduate programs, WGU is committed to keeping costs low to help students graduate with little to no student debt. More than 70 percent of students benefit from financial aid and scholarships, and the school disperses about $15 million in scholarships annually to approximately 8,500 students. Annually, WGU disperses approximately $1 million to students from its Financial Support Fund—a safety net program designed to assist students who experience unusual hardships.
“Our students live all over the country, so the app’s ability to share information about local social services is critical,” said Amanda Savage, Director of Scholarships at WGU. “Edquity’s ‘culture of caring’ approach will help us address much more acute student needs that impact them and their families, while speeding up the request-to-disbursement timeframe for students who experience hardships.”
About WGU Labs
WGU Labs is a wholly owned subsidiary of Western Governors University, a nonprofit organization. WGU Labs primarily provides research and services, invents, builds, and intends to make strategic investments in innovative learning solutions that improve quality and advance educational outcomes for learners everywhere. Building on social psychology, learning science, and industry trends, WGU Labs accelerates education startups and develops its own research-supported, scalable products. WGU Labs employs efficacy testing with students in real-world settings, ensuring that each product positively impacts student success. Learn more about WGU Labs at wgulabs.org.
Edquity offers the first research-driven basic needs insecurity and emergency aid technology platform for college students, which includes emergency aid underwriting and disbursement functionality as well as a one-stop hub for social services referral. Informed by the research of Chief Strategy Officer Dr. Sara Goldrick-Rab, Edquity has worked with innovative partners that include the Dallas County Community College District, where Edquity successfully supported the district through the largest natural disaster in Dallas’ history. The organization has been acknowledged with awards and recognition from the Gates Foundation, New Schools Venture Fund, Village Capital, and Inclusive Fintech 50, and Edquity’s Founder David Helene was named to Forbes 30 Under 30 list in Social Entrepreneurship. Edquity has received over $4MM in funding from innovative investment and philanthropic partners and is quickly expanding to support national partners in 2020.