Bill Clinton Helps Students Get College Funding… By Launching New Facebook App

By Kenna McHugh Comment

At the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), President Bill Clinton announced that MTV and the College Board, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will develop a first of its kind social media tool to help students find money for college.

The social media tool is based on the difficulty of paying for a higher education. It is a key reason many college students fail to graduate. Past studies have shown that upwards of two million college students don’t apply for any of the nearly $70 billion in financial aid the government distributes each year, and that almost two-thirds of students find the process of applying for financial aid difficult.

The concept for the interactive application was imagined by recent University of Nevada, Las Vegas graduate Devin Valencia, who President Clinton announced as the winner of the “Get Schooled” College Affordability Challenge.

“College affordability is an urgent issue that demands innovation and a fundamental rethinking of the ways students access higher education,” said President Bill Clinton. “A college degree is not just critical, it is essential to America’s economic future, and it’s important that we continue to find ways to harness the power of technology to close the educational opportunity gap.”

The app, which will launch later this year, will leverage information from a user’s Facebook profile to automatically present a tailored list of relevant financial aid opportunities. I am marveled at this tool because it will enable users to tap into their Facebook friends and get help navigating what can be a difficult financial aid maze. Additionally, the app will provide step-by-step tutorials on important processes like filling out the FAFSA form and deciding how much debt to take on.

Devin Valencia said, “[I] hope that this Facebook app acts as a starting point, connecting students with grants, scholarships and loans to finance their education.”

Valencia’s app idea won him $10,000 and was processed through, the “Get Schooled” College Affordability Challenge. More than 200 concepts were submitted, and three finalists were unveiled at a briefing on Capitol Hill. The three finalists worked with Frog Design to iterate their ideas, and for about two weeks, thousands of college students nationwide voted for their favorite idea. Valencia’s idea was selected based on audience voting and a panel of college affordability experts. Valencia, whose idea will be brought to life by MTV, the College Board and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation with a development budget of up to $100,000.

“Devin’s concept represents a huge step forward by reaching kids in their own environment, Facebook, and on their own terms,” said Robert Fabricant, VP of Creative, frog design.

I am curious to see how this new social media tool will help solve the problem of paying for a higher education. If the app can cut the numbers down by just 25%, that alone makes the tool worth the effort to free future college students from the difficulty of applying for financial aid.