Edward Ma, left, and Charles Milton

Edward Ma, left, and Charles Milton

A team of students from Nova Scotia Community College is building an online platform to address a problem they know well: the cost of higher education.

Bursity.ca helps to match users to scholarships for which they are eligible, and automate the application process. Its founders plan to raise money on Kickstarter to help cover their startup costs.

“We’re going to use that to be able to go through our database and match you with different bursaries or grants based on the criteria that they’re looking for,” said co-founder Charles Milton in an interview. “But instead of just leaving it there … we’re going to make it so the application process happens directly from our website.”

Milton and his business partners, Edward Ma and Allen Lyiard, met while studying computer science. Milton and Ma were asked by their college’s administration to help organize a job fair, and they met Lyiard shortly afterward.

All three have found the cost of post-secondary education to be a challenge. Milton once wanted to become a lawyer, but could not afford the tuition costs.

The idea for Bursity.ca was hatched when Milton began applying for scholarships for his final year at NSCC.

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He was surprised at the large number of scholarships and bursaries that he would potentially qualify for, but did not have enough time to manually complete applications for them all.

This gave him the idea to build a website that would reduce the time investment required to apply for funding by allowing users to submit applications in batches.

When the site is ready, it will allow students to input demographic information about themselves, such as community leadership credentials and information about their financial needs. It will then generate a list of scholarships and grants for which the students are eligible.

The database of funding sources will be freely available to anyone who visits the site and is generated in part through partnerships with the organizations offering scholarships.

“We want to see people go to school,” said Milton. “We want to see people better themselves, so we’ll give you the list if you want to use it.”

For students who purchase a subscription, Bursity.ca will also bundle opportunities based on similar application criteria, such as shared essay topics.

The team hopes to have a beta version of the platform ready within a year, and a full version ready in about 18 months. (Beta software is software that is being tested by a limited pool of users to determine its readiness for a wider market.)

Milton said he and his partners plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign in February to help cover their development costs.

He expects they will need over $300,000 to fully take Bursity.ca to market, with their goal for the Kickstarter campaign being slightly over a third of that amount.

In addition to helping to fund development, Milton said the Kickstarter campaign will have the benefit of demonstrating the viability of the business. If the campaign is able to reach its fundraising goal, this will prove that there is a ready customer base.

The team will consider taking on angel investors in the future but would prefer to avoid conventional venture capital.

Said Milton: “We want this to be a student-run company, created for students, by students who understand the struggle.”