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Online Platform for New York Public Colleges (Updated 12/8/15)

An online platform (by state) providing information, reassurance, and networking.

Photo of Nicole Cote

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Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it reimagine the cost of college?

High school students (originally across New York state, but then nationwide) who wish to pursue higher education, but are unsure if they can make it affordable for themselves.
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Informing, Reassuring, Networking

Design Statement:

NY College Library is an online platform for finding local public colleges that offer high-quality and affordable education, and establishing university connections. 

The Idea:

We will create an online platform for students looking to apply to college in New York. The website will provide a substantive listing of New York public colleges and universities that focuses on affordability, reassurance, and community.

The NY College Library will exist as a mobile site/app that provides all necessary information for each school (each with its own school page that includes: location by distance from applicant, acceptance rate, cost per credit, notable faculty, alumni and current student success stories, and etc).

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To establish a sense of confidence in the application process, and a sense of community, another key component will be the alumni/applicant networking feature for each school. Essentially, potential applicants will be able to create profiles and login to the system. Then, when they "favorite" potential schools, they will be able to see the other students who have favorited those schools, and direct message them to discuss the application process, why they chose this school, and so on.

Similarly, users will be able to direct message any alumni or current students who have profiles, as well. This creates a community for students, where they can post and read each other’s success stories, and establish alumni connections. This will help to enforce the fact that these schools really are feasible and achievable goals for these students, and provides the reassurance from peers they need to feel a part of that community.

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Lastly, to further prove the affordability aspect of these schools, we will incorporate a net cost calculator, which will allow users to select a certain school, and show how much the school will "really" cost, and how much aid will likely be received (by means of the school, state, city, and federal government). Currently, the CUNY system already has a fantastic net calculator for their schools, which we are imbedding into our system. In our group's test-runs we have found that these schools are often highly affordable, and can even be free, for low-income students with good high-school grades. As this app develops from after the prototype stage we would be keen to incorporate the SUNY schools into the CUNY calculator, as well, but for now, this feature has been a key addition to our app.

Here is a sample of results from a test-run with Baruch College:

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To test the calculator out for yourself, please go here

We would hope to eventually extend this resource across the US. 

Summarized Focal Points:

  • Community: (providing a link between future students, current students, and alumni to give the sense that this is a do-able goal, and can be achieved financially). Thus we will establish a support system/network to build confidence. 
  • Affordability: proving and reassuring that there are affordable local higher education options out there for low-income students.  


Our Inspiration and the National Problem at Hand:

General Inspiration

From our research, we found two serious burdens caused by college costs and potential exorbitant financial debt. Students are either:

1) left with oppressive student loan debt they cannot afford and that affects their quality of life,  or (perhaps even worse)

2) deterred from ever applying, because they are never led to believe college is an affordable step for them.

** In either case: it seems commonly agreed upon that a college degree is necessary in it’s commonality, in the sense that it seems to be equivalent to what a high school degree used to be. **

We were, however, inspired by many local public colleges, which are often overlooked for more prestigious or just more “known” schools. We found that many of these colleges had much lower tuition rates, and after financial aid, could be very affordable, if not free, to a large number of students. We could not find an affordable comparison for private colleges, which typically cost $50,000+ per year (even with 80% off, those schools continue to be out of reach for many). We, thus, wanted to demystify the clouds that surround these schools by: 1) providing information on their offerings (informing students that they exist and what they excel in), and 2) providing a community for security (the "yes, this has been done and you can too" idea) and for future connections (alumni who would be interested in acting as a resource).

The Problem and our Solution

  • PROBLEM: The problem that surrounds the US culture of higher education is the fact that there are many local high-quality and affordable colleges in the US, but they are severely under-utilized. 
  • A DEEPER DIVE: We believe that the under-utilization of these schools stems from 1) a lack of information and resources regarding these local schools, and 2) this idea that low-income students don't have a supportive community to reassure them that these options really are for them, and that they can utilize them successfully and affordably.  
  • SOLUTION: NY College Library: an online platform for finding local public colleges that offer high-quality and affordable education, and establishing university connections. 

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How do students learn about this?:

We are hoping that, by making something that is based on public colleges and is specific to each state, eventually this becomes a notable enough tool for us to either try to work with each state’s Department of Education, or with high school guidance counselors, or both. Thus, students would learn about this app either through the guidance counselors at public high schools or as a marketing campaign in public high schools through the local Department of Education.

How would this become a fully-implemented platform?:

We would need to:

1) obtain substantial feed-back from high school and college students on our prototype (and from the colleges involved to ensure that they agree the information is as accurate as possible),

2) attempt an alliance with the public high school systems statewide or with the Department of Education as a whole,

3) continue obtain success stories and alumni connections, and

4) program actual site based on the app.

Prototype for Feedback: 

The group's prototype for this idea is a mobile website built with Proto.Io, but can be tested on a desktop browser, as well. We encourage you to play around with the app while it is in its development phase, and let us know what you think. 

The prototype is available here.

We continue to appreciate your feedback on this! Please fill out our survey located here

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We will need to confirm exactly what will be posted on this site, to create the most effective resource. We are currently prototyping: School / Acceptance Rate/ Specialty / Faculty /Cost Per Credit /Success Stories /Alumni/Community Network/Cost Calculator We need to continue to gain feedback on the usefulness of the above-mentioned items, and are grateful for any comments you might have!

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

- Advice on what we include, and if anything additional might be included. - Advice on how the usability of the prototype. - Personal experiences/success stories from state colleges and universities in NY (or other states)!

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm

Are you interested in the Path to Pitching track we've developed for this challenge?

  • Yes

Attachments (1)


A general preliminary site map/sketch for our platform.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Alexandra Alden

Alex from Path to Pitching here - Wow! You guys have developed your idea alot! How many people did you prototype with? How would you generate revenue?  You should incorporate some of the milestones to help you better flesh out the business side:

Finally some logistical questions about the Path to Pitching: If accepted would you be able to commit to a residential program (most are 2-6 months)? Also do you have two people who could serve as co-founders?

Keep up the good work!

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