This interview is part of a series about innovative startups in Village Capital's network that are responding creatively to the challenges raised by COVID-19.
Over the past few weeks campuses across the country have shut down as schools turn to virtual classes. That means that hundreds of thousands of students have lost on-campus jobs in coffee shops or libraries, and been kicked out of subsidized campus housing.
While it’s likely that Congress will ease the burden of student loans, that’s only part of the story around the true cost of college. Getting a degree comes with all sorts of other expenses – like student housing, food, child care and mental health – that federal loans won’t cover. More than 56% of college students in a recent #RealCollege survey say they have been housing insecure.
Brooklyn-based startup Edquity is stepping up to help. Their app offers emergency cash grants to college students who face financial insecurity. Their emergency aid application takes five minutes to complete and helps students receive a cash loan within 48 hours.
We spoke with Edquity COO A.T. McWilliams about how his startup is responding to the crisis.
On “real college costs”
There’s a distinction between loans, which pay for tuition, and everyday costs that students face – what we call “real college costs”. Student loans don’t cover housing, food, medical costs, mental health costs. A quarter of all college students are parents, so they need to pay for child care. We work in Dallas with a lot of undocumented students benefiting from DACA, who struggle to access basic resources.
As campuses started closing in the past few weeks, we started to see a ton of inbounds from students – far more than we’d seen in the past. We know that 50% of college students encounter food insecurity at some point during their education, and we can imagine that number has gone up significantly.
Our team at Edquity has a track record of supporting institutions through crisis. Last fall, when 10 tornadoes struck the Dallas County Community College District, we served hundreds of students in crisis with 24/7 support, always recognizing that they are humans first. Our support kept students enrolled and on track to earn their degrees, despite the largest tornado-based disaster the state had ever seen.
On building a student relief fund:
We’re doing everything we can to help students across the country. Students may need to leave campus on a night’s notice in order to protect themselves, in which case a cash grant might cover the cost of a hotel stay. We’re partnering with The Hope Center and Rise on a student relief fund, which is a crowdfunding campaign to raise funding for emergency aid for students.
In addition to that, we’re also making our service free for a few colleges, and hoping to identify more. We’re trying to meet schools where they’re at: we understand that while students are experiencing a great need, the colleges themselves are experiencing a great need, too. When students are forced to withdraw, they lose tuition. So colleges aren’t in a great place to pay for services right now.
Learn more about Edquity’s relief efforts on their website.