Interview: Sabrina Manville is making research on paying for college a breeze

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Apr 30, 2018
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ISA investing

Paying for College

Going to college is a big step in anyone’s life. A college education provides upward social mobility as well as an opportunity to create meaningful contributions to society. While it is clear that the value of a college education is far more than a high school degree, many people don’t fully grasp the gravity of paying for college. In addition to that, there is no real transparent way for students to find out exactly how much they will be spending without applying. Edmit seeks to solve this issue. Joel had the opportunity to get in touch with Sabrina Manville, co-founder of Edmit to learn more about how they are changing the way students choose and pay for colleges.

Joel:

Tell me about your life and career so far.

Sabrina:

I grew up in New Jersey and the DC area, and went to Yale University for my undergraduate degree, where I studied religious studies (a true liberal arts major!). After school I worked at a nonprofit that consulted to universities and built technology for higher education called Ithaka. It was an incredible place to start my career, and ignited my interest in the sector. I then worked abroad in Kenya for a social enterprise before returning to complete my MBA at Stanford, where I did a lot of coursework in the education school as well as traditional business. Since then, I’ve worked in venture-backed ed-tech companies, in the corporate education sector, and for a visionary university, SNHU – and my cofounder Nick and I launched Edmit in the fall of 2017.

Joel:

What spurred you to work in the EdTech space?

Sabrina:

My parents both have PhDs and worked in academia in their early careers; my mother is an immigrant and a first generation college graduate – so I grew up with a deep appreciation for the vital role that universities and education play in society and in driving economic mobility. I believe very strongly that the sector needs to thrive and has huge value, but also that it needs to be adapting as the world changes; for this reason I’ve focused on higher ed innovation, often via technology – building new ideas that help students and institutions increase their impact.

Joel:

What is the main problem Edmit is trying to solve?

Sabrina: There are three big life events that people save for and work for – buying a house, retirement, and college. But it’s much easier to figure out how to get great advice and make wise investments on real estate and retirement than it is to figure out how much you’ll need to pay for college or what college will be the best value or financial fit for you. Everyone pays a different price for college, and it’s traditionally been very hard to know in advance what that price will be. This means that lots of families are caught off-guard, or that students take on too much debt, or that students choose colleges that don’t actually pay off well for them compared to what they’ve had to put in.

Joel:

How is Edmit doing this?

Sabrina:

Our site gives you tools to look at the college planning and decision process from a financial perspective. We generate personalized estimates (we call them Edstimates!) of the financial aid and scholarships you’re likely to receive, and then you can get reports, recommendations, and other tools to cover all financial estimates of the college process – from saving for college when your child is young, to choosing which colleges to apply to, to comparing your options and appealing to colleges for more financial aid.

Joel:

What makes Edmit different from its competitors?

Sabrina:

There are lots of places online to get information about college, but very few that approach it from a data-driven and financial perspective like Edmit is trying to do. They can be overwhelming, and most don’t display information that is personalized to your particular situation. Usually students also have ‘go-to’ advisors like college counselors or family and friends – these are great resources for many things, but there are likely to be areas (particularly in the financial and outcomes realms, where Edmit specializes) where they have no personal experience or qualifications and thus find it hard to advise. The topics we deal with are complex. We think we are complementary to most resources currently out there related to college, because everyone could use more of this data in more intuitive formats.

Joel:

What do you hope will happen in the industry in the next five years?

Sabrina:

First, college is still unattainable for too many students because of financial concerns. Colleges have started to make efforts to reduce their prices and find new models for learning, but there needs to be even more radical change if this barrier to higher education is to be eliminated. The stabilization of price and support for lower- and middle-income students needs to be a team effort between policymakers and the public sector (who provide much-needed funding) and colleges. Second, I hope students will start to ‘vote with their feet’ and choose colleges that can demonstrate their outcomes and show they are worth the price. A college degree is still 100% one of the best investments someone in America can make with respect to life outcomes and economic mobility. But it’s not just any degree that pays off – where you study, what you study, and how much you spend and borrow will impact the calculus. Which leads to my third hope: that more students and families (all students and families!) get the information they deserve in this process: transparency and consistency in the data, information in formats that are relevant and easy to understand, and accessible sources of advice on making this huge investment.

Joel:

Where do you see Edmit in the next five years?

Sabrina:

We want to become a go-to source for great data and advice on saving for, choosing, and paying for college. We’re building out new tools all the time and would love for your readers to check out the site and give us their feedback!

Check out Edmit’s website to learn more!

About the Author

Sabrina Kite

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