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Just Getting Started

As graduates prepare to don their caps and gowns and break into the next chapter of their journeys in life, we felt it was a good time to introduce our latest chapter. For the last few months, we have been working in stealth mode to build Your29, the platform for students to find, fund and own their journey–beginning with college.

We want to make education available to anyone who wants it. We believe - with education comes a better life. Education opens doors to better opportunities for jobs, income and fulfillment. This doesn’t mean that you need to have a PhD to be happy. But as people who are constantly curious and have a passion for learning, it’s been our experience that it brings joy, gratification and success.

However, education has become such a controversial topic–especially today.

Books are being banned, what is included or removed from curriculums is up for debate as long held truths are cast aside, among a plethora of other issues. But the issue that bothers us the most, is that the cost of getting an education continues to widen the gap between the haves and have nots. This leads to social imbalances and becomes unsustainable as the gap still continues to widen.

Perhaps you’re fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood where your public schools are rated highly and offer your children a top education for “free.” But when it comes to continuing education after high school, you either need to be a millionaire or take on hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt–or rather our children take on that debt. Today, $1.75 trillion in student loan debt is outstanding in the US, and 45 percent of current college students are accruing student loan debt.

The financial pressure of a post-high school education has only been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic, as we enter year 3. How can students and their families rationalize taking on significant debt during a time when many Americans are facing financial hardships? All of this is also compounded with the stress and huge toll that the pandemic, working from home, remote learning and separation from families and friends had on all of our mental health.

Many colleges made accommodations for this by removing the standardized test requirements for applicants, which did have some positive impacts for minority students. However, since 2020 the majority of U.S. colleges have seen a significant decline in applications and ultimate enrollments.

After digging into this issue, we were shocked to learn that there are nearly 4,000 undergraduate colleges in the U.S. Yet, on average high school students apply to only 5-6 colleges. Part of this is due to a lack of awareness around all of the different colleges and programs that exist, and perhaps part of it is due to the varying application requirements. For instance, having to write 6 different essays (or more) for 6 different colleges is a lot.

Choosing where to apply and ultimately attend college is also full of challenges. Guidance is needed to make a good decision–note that we did not say “the right” decision. So who helps them?

  • Guidance counselors that average 415 students to each 1 of them nationally–the recommended ratio is 250:1 per the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), which still blows our minds

  • Parents, who have limited knowledge of the nearly 4,000 colleges that exist in the U.S., and many of whom may have never attended or graduated from an undergraduate program

  • Should we rely on teachers and coaches, as if they haven’t already been stretched to their limits

For those families that can afford it, they rely on the costly services of a private college counselor. But those that can afford it are really more the exception as compared to the norm.

So where can students turn for better guidance on the many colleges and programs available to them, what will fit best with their needs and desires and how to pay for it? Right now, nowhere.

Students use word of mouth recommendations from their friends and family, and Google as their main tools for identifying colleges they will apply to. Then if they have the time and discipline, they can use Google again to scour the thousands of different scholarship pages and databases for possible opportunities that may help them subsidize the cost of college, and then complete the various application processes.

What a pain in the @$$. It’s hard to believe that it’s easier to search, apply and interview for a job than it is to decide where to go to college. Thank goodness for LinkedIn, Zip Recruiter, Indeed (and others).

So that is what we plan to solve with Your29. We will connect students with the resources they need to find and fund their education, because we believe that education should be available to everyone. Not just those that can afford it. Because it benefits everyone, not just those who need it.

And we’re just getting started.


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