I’ve been mulling over the idea of finding a way to help people with student loans since I discovered that my now husband, who served in the Navy and even had GI Bill assistance, carried tens of thousands in student loans. Barraged with news of the crises related to student loans and personal conversations with friends, it suddenly became clear that this was a bigger problem than just affecting us and a few others. I tried to find assistance for us but could only find new startups that sound great but actually restrict our ability to be flexible when situations come up, like we can with our federal loans.
The ideas for Foothold NW have been developing fast and furious, partially from my own experience and also from leaning on those with much more experience than me in entrepreneurship, non profit management, education reform, and community building.
Here is the basic premise:
My husband and I carry tens of thousands in student loan debt. It’s one of the main reasons that we delayed buying a home and starting a family into our thirties, and I know we’re not alone.
Student loans are a national crisis.
With 12 years of experience in non profit fundraising, marketing, and program management, I have decided to put my skills to use and build a team that can work toward resolution of this crisis.
The mission of Foothold NW is to make higher education accessible to everyone who is interested in attaining it, primarily through education finance reform.
We have three main focuses:
1) Counsel and inform prospective students on their options for school funding, including private and public loans, Americorps education credits, and scholarships.
2) Help people in crisis who need assistance with their loans. The first step will be financial education and reviewing their finances holistically. We will first start with sharing information on the options available, including what they can do with their current servicer as well as if they choose another for consolidation. If it looks necessary or if they have a goal in mind and need help (such as buying a house, paying down credit card debt, etc), we will use donor contributed funds to do 6-12 month boost payments on their loans. Using the power of a 1:1 or 2:1 match to their payments, we will allow the student to maintain accountability and ownership of the loan while giving them a boost of morale to pay the loans off faster. We are also actively seeking banking partners to help provide low interest consolidation loans for non-traditional clients.
3) Advocacy and lobbying. We will work to curate information on education funding possibilities and use research and reporting to inform policy positions that we will use as a basis for informing the public and talking to lawmakers. We will also heavily collaborate with educators, organizations, and lawmarkers that are working on change.
Funding Needed: I am aiming for enough initial funding for five full time staff members for two years, base salary plus benefits. These staff members are the Executive Director (myself), Chief Strategy Officer, Prospective Student Program Manager, Current & Former Student Program Manager, and the Advocacy Manager. I will also be contracting with local artists and photographers to tell our story effectively.
I believe non profit employees deserve a competitive wage as they are the reason the organization succeeds. I estimate $80,000 in total compensation each to start, with each employee starting at a minimum of $30/hr with consistent evaluations, annual cost of living adjustments, and merit-based raises. This gives us a goal of $400,000 to start our operations. Overhead will be relatively low beyond staff compensation, as all of our employees will telecommute and use cloud-based collaboration software.