Frustration over the ever-rising cost of college and the increased number of students overwhelmed by debt have families wondering, is a college degree worth it?
As economic inequality continues to create a greater divide, that question is more significant than ever.
One estimate has two-thirds of current job openings requiring a college degree. Yet, a mere 15 percent of low-to-moderate-income students earn a bachelor’s degree by age 24.
While generations have viewed higher education as a ladder in social mobility, that ladder has become increasingly difficult to climb.
That’s why we remain committed to equipping at-risk and marginalized students with the skills and knowledge they need to successfully navigate and finance higher education. And all without an overwhelming burden of debt.
Over the last year, we’ve been on a mission to transform the organization to meet today’s real needs of college-bound students.
Below is an overview of how we’re taking the reins to better the future of all college students.
Engaging the Process
The global pandemic changed everything. Our former social impact model of in-person financial literacy programs coupled with Inversant Savings accounts became obsolete overnight. We realized this before the pandemic began and embarked on a path of de-coupling services.
We knew that our new path must restore the essence of our learnings and data to date. After all, what’s the purpose of history if we weren’t learning from it?
At the same time, we recognized that the world had changed forever. COVID-19, an existential threat to how we did business, challenged our thinking and way of working together.
Throughout 2020, we adapted to adjust to the overwhelming change but also maximize our unique opportunities.
Today, as we forge ahead in Q4 of 2021, we accelerate initiatives to continue to serve our communities in the brave new world that lies ahead.
Our focus is steadfast and enthusiastically driven to remain:
- Laser-focused on delivery of family-centric programs
- Equipped to compile, organize, leverage, and report on data
- Well-positioned to scale programs regionally, statewide, and or nationally
- A thriving, self-sustained, and community-supported organization
Visualizing the Future
Over the last decade, Inversant has achieved a powerful legacy of change for families across the commonwealth. With over 2000 families served, we stand resolute in our commitment to a system where everyone has access to higher education both equally and ethically.
And yet, growth doesn’t come without a price. In order to expand, we must strengthen support to build a sustainable and scalable model that meets the current demands.
To achieve the ambitious five-year strategic plan and evolution of organizational development, we would need to increase awareness and impact.
To accomplish our true potential – making higher education attainable for everyone in the US – we’d have to reinvent how we operate – evolving and maturing our capacity, capability, and resources to supercharge how we make a mark on this world.
Those three pillars are the foundation of how we work, who we serve, and how we’ll succeed as an organization.
1. Program Services
Our path to realizing vision potential and mission fulfillment is direct service to low-to-moderate-income students and their families.
To reach scale and impact potential, we must serve as many low-to-moderate-income students and their families as possible through a combination of scholarships, adult and online learning for education access and finance, and education savings programs.
Our ability to deliver services efficiently and cost-effectively will realize vision potential and mission fulfillment. To reach scale and impact potential, we must build systems, skills, and strategies to deliver our services.
To realize vision potential and fulfill our mission, we must creatively, effectively, and efficiently align and utilize resources. To support growth, we’ll maintain existing assets while discovering and developing new resources.
These internal capabilities boost our ability to achieve economic diversity. Resources that will make it possible to amplify and magnify our impact on the families we serve. We will make higher education attainable by everyone in the US.
Adapting to New Work and Home Life
COVID-19 threw everyone for a loop. The depth, breadth, and speed at which it moved required a new and thoughtful approach to work as we knew it.
Within a matter of days, we, along with organizations worldwide, coordinated a distributed workforce.
However, working from home wasn’t a luxury afforded to many of our families. While health issues rose to the top of social and political agendas, we saw the emergence of other problems, such as:
- A lack of technology. Families didn’t have a computer and struggled with online meetings. The Internet was spotty and slow for many we spoke with, causing them anxiety as they tried to log in to do homework. Sometimes it would take hours to complete what would’ve taken 15 minutes in the classroom.
- Unexpected food expenses. Many students relied on complimentary breakfast and lunch for their students each day and worried that there would be a pileup of bills due to unforeseen costs during the pandemic.
- No quiet space to study. With no quiet area to study, students worried they’d fall behind, and grades would suffer. The pandemic put undue pressure on students to perform, knowing that scholarships and other financial aid may not be available if they didn’t keep grades up.
At Inversant, our mission is to close the digital divide and create equitable access to higher education. It’s been that way since our inception, but the need is greater than ever before.
The pandemic exposed more significant inequities, like access to distance learning technology. Without it, Massachusetts risks exacerbating education inequality across the state.
This and so many other reasons are why we believe in the expansion of our programs and capacity, bringing hope to those in need.
Focusing on the Whole Organization
Amidst our programs and communication overhaul, we were also implementing a systematic change of how our team collaborates and works together.
We began with our people first. They’re the greatest asset we have to achieve our mission. Cultivating our human capital is the foundation of our strategy.
Our plan increases knowledge and skills to build capacities and consolidate effort. This leads to a surge in results and establishes a generative culture within the organization.
Next, we focused on updating our processes and systems to align the team better, increasing efficiency and enabling each team member to work at total capacity.
Over the last eight months, we’ve implemented a:
- Strategic planning and management system
- Scalable and sustainable best practices
- Framework to govern our progress and impact
- Set of measurable goals and success metrics
This will enable us to:
- Communicate what we’re doing with all stakeholders
- Align our work to strategy
- Focus our programs and services on our Families’ needs
- Measure, track, and report on progress towards our strategic targets
We’ve collaborated internally to finalize our strategy map. Now complete, this roadmap serves as a guide to our activities. It includes specific initiatives and an auditable metric for evaluation.
It’s broken down into four key areas (perspectives). Each of which is interdependent and aligned to the mission that acts as our guiding light throughout transformation over the next five years.
Grounding the Future in Data
To amplify and magnify our impact in the coming years, we must work ahead with the assumption that our results guide future initiatives.
In 2020, we launched multiple campaigns designed to meet our community’s inherent and most immediate needs.
- Alumni Assistance
- Inversant Scholarship
- Cash for College
Those campaigns informed our strategic pillars.
Moving forward, we’ll take our learnings, iterate, and devise the most effective yet sustainable model to address key areas of need throughout the student lifecycle.
For students today, the college application landscape is constantly changing. For those in under-resourced schools, information, and guidance are not as readily available as they are for their more privileged peers.
For first-generation college students whose own parents didn’t attend college themselves, the process can be daunting. And for those “new-traditional” students who are going to school for the first time or returning as an adult, the vast majority of information available is not tailored to their unique needs.
Inversant provides free and open access to fully remote learning experiences for students of all backgrounds and their families. Topics cover not only financial literacy, but college application, and other critical aspects of planning for college.
Understanding how to apply for and succeed in college is invaluable but can only go so far without the necessary financial means. As the country pays more attention to the high costs of college and the unsustainability of student debt, more and more colleges are improving their financial aid packages.
But it’s not enough. Even with generous grants that offer essentially free tuition, students continue to take on debt or drop out of school due to costs beyond the scope of financial aid for things like travel to and from campus, food, health care, childcare, books, and extra fees.
Students’ educational dreams can be derailed by bills as low as $500. Inversant’s scholarships provide students with extra money to finance their education and close those gaps, while also providing links and resources to other scholarships and funding sources.
Inversant’s Savings Challenges are a crucial part – the heart of our service offerings. Our savings challenge matches and incentives provide direct cash for college expenses, while the structure of the challenges helps students and families develop savings habits that will help throughout their college journey.
Saving for college helps create a positive, college-going mentality among students and gives them concrete plans and hope for the future.
The call is rising for a continued arc of success support – so not only getting into college is the goal, but successful graduation and workforce entry/improvement.
Ensuring Momentum is Maintained
Thanks to supporters that value higher education, access, and equity, we surpassed our 2020 goals. Even amid a global pandemic, we connected with and contributed to the success of families across the greater Boston area.
We’re on track to do the same in 2021, but we’re not slowing down. In order to maintain focus and momentum, we’ll continue to evaluate and refine for scale:
- Savings Challenge
- Daily Functions
- Revenue Generation
- Board/Team Development
- Alliances and Relationships
All of this to say, you haven’t seen the best of us yet.
Stay tuned! Together, we are capable of more than ever imagined.