Enabling Innovations

When we created a national scholarship program, Dell Scholars, we needed a way to deliver personalized, one-on-one attention to each scholarship recipient without having the luxury of being on the ground at more than 400 colleges and universities.  No off-the-shelf technology solution existed, so we built our own from the ground up.

We have adapted this technology over the years to reflect lessons learned and better support our students with navigating the obstacles towards college graduation. When we saw early patterns of roadblocks scholars were running into that could’ve been identified earlier, we turned to a data-driven scholar risk indicator to help both ourselves and the student identify and find solutions around these roadblocks.

When grants and scholarships in scholars’ financial aid packages were being removed but loans were increasing, we developed flexible financial disbursement processes for our scholarship award to maximize funds directly to students to cover study abroad, internships, loan repayments, and graduate school. We even created structures where funds could be deferred out to ten years to minimize displacement and also help students who need longer to complete.  Students are graduating with two-thirds less debt as a result.

After several years of tweaking this system, outside educational organizations approached us with a desire to utilize not only our technology tools, but the processes we developed in supporting students through to a college degree. Inspired by their enthusiasm, we began sharing our tools and processes.  Now, charter management organizations, community organizations and scholarship program staff use these tools and techniques to track, engage and inspire student success through college graduation. The tool, named GradSnapp, is flexible, cloud-based and student-centric, with a thorough collective case management component that is dedicated to ensuring college success.

Simultaneously, when we realized several thousand students spent hours on our scholarship application and were doing it over and over again on other applications with similar questions, we developed Scholar Snapp, a scholarship data standard that allows students to answer a question once and reuse that information across other scholarship and college applications. In an instant, a student has better access to more college scholarship opportunities.

Leveraging technology to do what it’s good at while freeing up time for college success staff to do what they’re good at – whether creating time for our team to connect with Dell Scholars directly, or dramatically cutting the time required for students to apply for scholarships — is what has driven our innovations over the past decade. We continue to drive ourselves to innovate to make a college degree a reality for more low-income students.