With post-secondary students back in colleges and universities, Bursity.ca is pushing forward with its mission of helping more young people find scholarships and bursaries and avoid the trap of student debt.
The company is developing an online platform that will help match students with the scholarships for which they are eligible and automate the application process.
Co-Founders Charles Milton and Edward Ma are now building their platform and working toward raising about $385,000 in capital – enough to get the product developed and support the company through 18 months. In the short-term, they’re looking for $100,000 in non-dilutive funding such as government programs that offer development grants.
Then they hope to take the product through two closed alpha tests next year, with the first involving 150 to 200 tech students at local post-secondary institutions. With these tests, they hope to prove that such a platform will help students find funding for their educations, and reduce the costs of groups that provide financial assistance to students.
“We live in a society where you need a post-secondary education to have any quality of life, but the cost of school is exorbitant,” said Milton in an interview. “But the subject of scholarship is still dealt with a very old-fashioned way. You might as well have a Rolodex of scholarships.”
He added that he and Ma came up with the idea based on their own pain. For example, Ma, who came to Canada from Hong Kong as a boy, attended St. Mary’s University for two years before leaving for health reasons, and just that stint left him $20,000 in debt. He later took and completed with honours the IT program at Nova Scotia Community College.
As an African-Nova Scotian, Milton became aware of a range of scholarships he could apply for, but he was amazed at the amount of time it took to apply.
The pair is working toward a platform that features a databank of scholarships. Students can input their details, learn instantly what scholarships or bursaries they are eligible for, and apply quickly. It saves time and money, not only for the students, but also for the organizations that provide scholarships.
So far, the duo has assembled a databank of about 40,000 Canadian scholarships with a total value of $60 million. This will be the data available to students in the two alpha tests. It’s a start in assembling a list of the $45 billion in scholarships and bursaries that are available across Canada and the U.S. – much of which goes unclaimed each year.
The company’s short-term goal is to develop a website and to begin blogging about scholarships and tips for getting them. They will also release the current databank of scholarships to provide immediate value to the people they’re trying to help. They’re working with programs which allow them to employ technical and marketing students to help them grow the company.
Milton is also keen to link up with investors who can help this social enterprise through its early stages – people who understand the difficulties students face in funding their educations.
“What we’re looking for is someone who can look at what we’re doing and say, ‘Yeah, you’re right, this is a problem,’” said Milton.