The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is awarding upwards of $100,000 to developers who propose apps and online tools that help high school students prepare for college, fund their schooling, and complete the sometimes circuitous application process.
The College Knowledge Challenge started Sept. 27 at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., where 100 developers gathered for a “hack-a-thon”–an effort to create useful technologies aimed at better preparing incoming college students as the need for remedial classes continues to rise across the U.S.
Anyone can submit a proposal to the Gates Foundation through the organization’s website. Winners of the $2.5 million grant competition will be announced in January, according to the foundation.
Foundation officials said they would encourage web-based tools that incorporated social media platforms like Facebook, where low-income and first-generation college students might find a supportive academic peer group.
Other apps might help incoming students construct a four-year plan toward college graduation. Students from College Summit Northern California partner high schools will serve as advisers to the competition’s app developers.
The foundation has for years funded efforts to cut down on the growing need for remedial education in colleges and universities. Students don’t earn course credits in remedial classes, making higher education more expensive for tens of thousands of freshmen.
An ideal application would target college students who most often start their campus careers mired in remedial courses, said J.B. Schramm, founder and CEO of College Summit, a group working alongside the Gates Foundation in the College Knowledge Challenge.
“First generation and low-income families typically do not have access to the information, coaching, and support needed to navigate the college-going process,” said Frome. “A platform of electronic tools dedicated to confronting and solving the obstacles to postsecondary navigation and success is an exciting potential opportunity for all students, regardless of their economic circumstances.”