How we're making college more affordable

 

At Wayfinding Academy we are committed to helping students graduate without soul-crushing debt. As a young non-profit college, we have the opportunity to build a different kind of financial model, and we’re not letting that opportunity pass us by.

There are two goals in particular that we’re focused on right now:

  1. We need to avoid sticker price shock, where students (often from low-income backgrounds) discard the option of going to college simply because of the massive yearly cost (which is often misleading because of the discounts and scholarships available for many students).

  2. We need to ensure that all students pay their fair share of the costs of the college while avoiding payment structures that make it expensive to be poor.

How do we go about achieving those goals?

To avoid sticker price shock, we keep our yearly tuition much lower than at the typical college - we charge just $10,500 per year. We’re able to keep tuition low because 30% of our revenue comes from fundraising via our Luminary programand other fundraising events. At many other institutions, fundraising accounts for only 5% of revenue, with the other 95% coming from student tuition and fees. Our approach helps to create a resilient organization, keeps college affordable, and builds a strong relationship with our community. After all, college and community should be woven together.

 It costs us about $21,000 per student to deliver the Wayfinding experience. Students pay half of this amount in tuition and we match that with our fundraising efforts. And you can help! Over the past two years, we have also intentionally reached out to donors to create some scholarships for students who might need a little extra help accessing the Wayfinding experience. About 1/3 of our students currently receive a scholarship funded by our donors. If you or someone you know is interested in starting a scholarship for a Wayfinding student, please send us an email or give us a call to start that conversation.

It costs us about $21,000 per student to deliver the Wayfinding experience. Students pay half of this amount in tuition and we match that with our fundraising efforts. And you can help! Over the past two years, we have also intentionally reached out to donors to create some scholarships for students who might need a little extra help accessing the Wayfinding experience. About 1/3 of our students currently receive a scholarship funded by our donors. If you or someone you know is interested in starting a scholarship for a Wayfinding student, please send us an email or give us a call to start that conversation.

To ensure that students pay their fair share without making it expensive to be poor, we provide flexibility in the payment schedule that each student commits to. Typically, the longer the payment plan, the more you pay overall. That punishes students from low-income backgrounds, which we think is wrong. So we flip the model around. A student from a wealthy background is expected to pay everything up front, and is charged a fee if they choose to pay term-by-term. In contrast, a student from a low-income background can pay for the program on a month-by-month basis, with no additional interest or fees, and is given a discount if they pay for everything up front. That provides a level of accessibility that we don’t see when we look at the current landscape of higher education.

In the above episode of This is Wayfinding we explore a new study that recently came out on the topic of upward mobility at higher education institutions, and talk a bit more about Wayfinding Academy's financial model.

While there is still plenty of room for improvement in our approach to making college affordable, we believe that this is a solid starting point, and we’re excited to continue building on it.

It’s also an opportunity to open up the conversation about ways to make college more affordable. You’ve just read a bit about our model - what do you think of it?

 

Want to learn more about how you can support Wayfinding students? Check out our Luminary program.