Solution overview

Our Solution

HigherEdPoints.com

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Tagline

Students convert loyalty points into tuition and student loan repayments, breaking down financial barriers and reducing student debt.

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Pitch us on your solution

Our vision is simple: Anyone who wants to pursue a higher education should be able to. Money should not be a barrier to obtaining that education and we will do whatever we can to help students and families find the money to go and to graduate with as little debt as possible.

HigherEdPoints.com's tag line is "it takes a village to raise a mind". Indeed, by the time a student enters college or university, a whole village of teachers, coaches, friends and relatives have helped get them there. Getting through higher ed these days also takes a village--a village to fund tuition, books, rent, food, transportation, etc.

Much of the student funding that exists today has rigid criteria--high marks, community service, Canadian citizenship, demonstrated financial need, etc. HigherEdPoints.com is committed to helping all students and recent graduates--young, mature, international, low income, first generation, second-entry, those in every discipline, etc.

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What is the problem you are solving?

The future of work will depend entirely on an educated workforce. Access to higher education is increasingly challenging because of rising costs. Decreased educational access will ultimately widen the economic divide and diminish the ability of many to thrive in the fast-changing digital economy.
HigherEdPoints.com's mission is to break down the financial barriers related to accessing higher education. We've created the first system in the world to enable students to use anyone's loyalty points (their own, their parents' their employers, etc.) to fund tuition and to repay government student loans.

In addition to creating access to this innovative new and renewable source of currency through three major loyalty partnerships (Aeroplan, TD and CIBC) HigherEdPoints.com has relationships with the majority of Canadian universities, colleges and government student loan programs. These institutions represent over 3 million Canadian students and graduates all seeking funding for school and student loan repayments. By helping millions of students fund their education and reduce their debt, we're fueling the digital economy with an educated and financially burden-free workforce.

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Who are you serving?

Education equalizes economic access--HigherEdPoints provides vital financial support to many who would otherwise not be able to obtain a degree or diploma.

Our program has helped mature students who've been laid off and need retraining, disabled students, single mothers (and their children), immigrants---all of whom needed funding not available from any other source. Because of HigherEdPoints, these and thousands of others are now able to participate in the digital economy, and, in turn, support others in their own journey. Thousands of students have been helped, including these students: Charles, Anthony, Jeremy and Lindsay. See their stories here: https://www.higheredpoints.com...

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What is your solution?

We've done all the 'heavy lifting' in Canada--we've created the ground-breaking infrastructure to convert loyalty points into educational funding and we are growing year-over-year. Our strategy remains consistent with the original vision: make sure that as many schools, universities and colleges as possible know about and participate in the program, reach students and graduates as well as their parents to let them know about HigherEdPoints.com as a viable tool in their "educational funding" toolkit.

In Canada, the business model has been proven on all sides of the equation as evidenced by 125 participating institutions, 275 million loyalty points redeemed, 3 of Canada's largest loyalty programs as partners, the Federal Government of Canada allowing HigherEdPoints as payment for student loans and thousands of students and recent grads being helped.

The organisation is well positioned to scale--we can help exponentially more Canadians fund their education by spreading the word. We're also ready to bring our innovation to the US market, which will require an investment from an outside party.

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  • Ensure all citizens can overcome barriers to civic participation and inclusion
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Where is your solution team headquartered?

Toronto, ON, Canada
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Our solution's stage of development:

Growth

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More about your solution

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New business model or process

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Describe what makes your solution innovative.

HigherEdPoints is the first company in the world to tap into existing loyalty points and convert them into educational funds. As such we don't have direct competition.
Our main competition comes from other reward items in loyalty catalogues (flights, merchandise). But as one wise HigherEdPoints member pointed out to us: "I can buy a trip or a toaster on sale, education NEVER goes on sale."
We are positioned within each of our loyalty partners' catalogues as a great alternative use of loyalty points--for something with long lasting impact: education.
Our schools and loan program partners celebrate HigherEdPoints as a cash-free method to fund fees (several had the media cover their participation in the program).
Small and medium sized business owners love the program because they collect thousands of dollars worth of loyalty points which can help offset their employee's education while preserving cash in their businesses.

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Describe the core technology that your solution utilizes.

HigherEdPoints.com is entirely digital. The technology is first-of-its kind as converting loyalty points into tuition and student loans had previously never been done. Our integration with varying loyalty programs, the tech legacy systems of universities and colleges, the stringency of government student loan providers while creating a simple user-experience has been a feat of monumental proportion. And we are very proud of our accomplishments.

Future technological developments include international expansion--we'd love any student to be able to use any loyalty currency to fund their education--anywhere in the world.

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Please select the technologies currently used in your solution:

  • Social Networks
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Why do you expect your solution to address the problem?

HigherEdPoints has already helped thousands of Canadian students and their parents fund tuition and repay student loans: over $1.6 million has been offset to date. 

While HigherEdPoints is not the solution to the problem of exclusion from higher education due to funding--we are definitely part of the solution and with additional financial support, our solution will help offset millions more in tuition and student loans.

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In which countries do you currently operate?

  • Canada
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In which countries will you be operating within the next year?

  • Canada
  • United States
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How many people are you currently serving with your solution? How many will you be serving in one year? How about in five years?

Over $1.6 million in educational funding has been unlocked by HigherEdPoints.com to date, helping thousands of students and families fund their education.

We're now officially the single largest source of private sector educational funding for ALL students, including those excluded from many scholarships, bursaries and government student loans.

These are funds that would otherwise have been borrowed. In many cases, the students would not have been able to enrol at all.

This Member story sums things up well:
I've been repaying my OSAP student loan since October 2007.
While I was in school I didn't qualify for the type of grants available to students today. Other than the income I made working during school and over the summers, there were not a lot of options other than applying for an OSAP loan.
After leaving school I was working minimum wage jobs, more than one or two at the same time, just to pay down my loan. This was difficult.
I found HigherEdPoints online when I was searching for other repayment options--there are not really many options for those of us out of school.
HigherEdPoints helped me quite a bit and has given me some much needed breathing room.

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What are your goals within the next year and within the next five years?

Our metrics of success are very simple: Students, parents, and donors redeeming their loyalty points for the HigherEdPoints.com reward item‚and the value of resulting tuition dollars and student loan repayments offset.

Our top three goals for the next year include:
1) Offsetting over $1M in a 12 month period of tuition and student loans
2) Adding 3 new loyalty program partners
3) Expanding to the US

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What are the barriers that currently exist for you to accomplish your goals for the next year and for the next five years?

We're now tackling the "best" challenge a start-up can have--awareness. We've got proof of concept, traction and 'raving fans'. Once a family, an employer or a donor learns of HigherEdPoints, we're a part of their educational funding plans for literally years---from high school, through to post-graduation. The lifecycle is more than 10 years--our oldest student user was 90 (a retired doctor who was taking an art course at UofT in order to access the library to continue his cancer research) and our oldest member to repay a federal student loan was 50(!). We even helped a graduate get his student loans out of default. These and many many other HigherEdPoints member stories are the basis for economic equity and betterment of society. With more awareness, we'll change more lives and create more economic parity.

At this stage, additional employees are needed in order to pursue the many opportunities available to the company--in particular awareness creation.

The major risk faced at this stage is simply founder fatigue--it's time to bring in some external funding and big brains!

Conversations have been initiated with external investors. Winning the funding from the MIT Inclusive Innovation Challenge would provide the funding required to help make HigherEdPoints a household name and grow our impact at the individual and societal level.

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How are you planning to overcome these barriers?

 To mitigate this risk, a comprehensive marketing plan has been created, for which additional funding will be required, including entry into the US market.

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About your team

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For-Profit

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How many people work on your solution team?

Suzanne Tyson founded HigherEdPoints.com after a 25 year career in the education, loyalty and student funding industries. It was her direct experience in each of these industries that allowed her to navigate the business and technical challenges of setting up this first of its kind source of educational funding.  

Knowing that there were literally billions of dollars in loyalty currency sitting in Canadians wallets, Suzanne created an access point to mobilize this renewable source of currency for all students. 

She is currently the sole full time employee and works with an external web development company on all technology solutions.

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For how many years have you been working on your solution?

Launch was November 2013, with just 2 Participating Institutions. There are now over 125 Participating Institutions, including the Canadian Federal Student Loan Program

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Why are you and your team best-placed to deliver this solution?

HigherEdPoints.com is located in Toronto and operates entirely online. We've created all the infrastructure necessary to scale both in Canada and internationally. We've created a brand and an incredibly symbiotic relationship with our 125+ Participating Institutions and thousands of students and parents.

We're now tackling the "best" challenge a start-up can have--awareness. We've got proof of concept, traction and 'raving fans'. Once a family, an employer or a donor learns of HigherEdPoints, we're a part of their educational funding plans for literally years---from high school, through to post-graduation. The lifecycle is more than 10 years--our oldest student user was 90 (a retired doctor who was taking an art course at UofT in order to access the library to continue his cancer research) and our oldest member to repay a federal student loan was 50(!). We even helped a graduate get his student loans out of default. These and many many other HigherEdPoints member stories are the basis for economic equity and betterment of society. With more awareness, we'll change more lives and create more economic parity in Canada.

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With what organizations are you currently partnering, if any? How are you working with them?

HigherEdPoints.com has been featured in over 250 news and media stories over the past 5 years--from general media to business, educational and technology stories, in Canada and globally.

In 2015 we participated in the Impact 8 program at MaRS, culminating in an investor pitch day.

In 2017 HigherEdPoints was voted by the SheEO community as a Top Venture.
Suzanne and her entrepreneurial journey with HigherEdPoints was featured in a CBC story for International Women's Day in 2019.

In May of 2019, HigherEdPoints.com pitched on Dragon's Den (results known this fall!). 

In July, HigherEdPoints was selected as a Top Ten finalist in the Telus PITCH challenge for 2019. Top 3 will be announced on July 23rd.

All have helped with awareness and program uptake.

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Your business model & funding

What is your business model?

HigherEdPoints.com's revenue streams currently come our loyalty partnerships. We earn margin on each reward redemption in our loyalty partners's cagtalogues. There is no fee for students/parents or our institutions to participate. With all of the infrastructure developed and a steady stream of users, an annuity revenue stream has been created.

Additional revenue streams are being explored, including sponsorship from corporate brands with an interest in engaging with students and recent graduates.

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What is your path to financial sustainability?

HigherEdPoints has the "best" challenge a start-up/growth venture can have--we've proven the model and have market acceptance. What we need most in Canada is awareness. Once families find out about the Program, they return for subsequent tuition cycles.

Financial sustainability will come from engaging larger numbers of student customers to fund tuition and grads to repay student loans. We've created an annuity revenue stream. 

Additional streams of revenue will come from adding new loyalty partners in Canada and expanding to international markets.

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Partnership potential

Why are you applying to Solve?

We have a detailed plan outlining the efficient use of Solve resources and network for marketing and hiring. These are some of the highlights:
- Hire a recent grad and/or co-op student(s) to develop, and execute HigherEdPoints awareness activities. Leverage grants and government incentives to supplement salaries.
- Building upon existing successes and scoping out additional HigherEdPoints awareness activities by segments (e.g. on campuses, with parents, at convocation)
- Hiring students on 10 designated campuses through campus work-study program to act as HigherEdPoints/educational funding ambassadors
- Execute marketing campaigns off campus with targeted messaging to specific segments, as identified above.

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What types of connections and partnerships would be most catalytic for your solution?

  • Distribution
  • Funding and revenue model
  • Media and speaking opportunities
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With what organizations would you like to partner, and how would you like to partner with them?

In the US, we would like to partner with banks and airline and hotel loyalty programs. e.g. JP Morgan Chase, Citi, Amex, American Airlines, Marriott, etc.

The opportunity for each is to create a deeper relationship with existing customers, while having a very attractive customer acquisition tool--and solving a societal issue (funding education).


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If you would like to apply for the GM Prize on Community-Driven Innovation, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.

HigherEdPoints' educational funding solution is available to all students and fosters prosperity and social mobility for underrepresented community members--who are often disadvantaged when it comes to accessing merit-based financial awards.  

Most merit-based sources of funding require applicants to have high marks, exceptional community service and/or leadership accomplishments. In addition citizenship in the country of study is often required. These criteria make up the vast majority of scholarships and entrance awards and exclude at-risk and marginalized swaths of the population.

As many students have told us "you can't save the world when you're trying to put food on the table". Students from higher income families are afforded opportunities lower income families simply aren't when it comes to educational funding: volunteering instead of working, access to tutors and prep courses for entrance tests, time to complete onerous scholarship applications. There are very few sources of equal-access educational funding, but HigherEdPoints.com has changed that. Students can use anyone's loyalty points to fund their education in Canada--mature, international, low income, second career---no applications required.

Funding from GM will allow HigherEdPoints to expand its offerings to include specific community-based outreach to underrepresented community members.

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If you would like to apply for the Innovation for Women Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.

HigherEdPoints.com developed innovative technology to enable the conversion of loyalty points into funding for education--students can use anyone's loyalty points to pay for tuition and repay student loans in Canada.

Funding from the Vodafone Americas Foundation would enable HigherEdPoints to expand its technology and educational funding solution to the US and create a significantly larger source of educational funding for females of all ages.

There's no better catalyst than education to support the advancement of women and girls, enabling their voices to be heard. 

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If you would like to apply for the Prize for Innovation in Refugee Inclusion, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.

One of the greatest travesties of any refugee crisis is the loss of credentials and academic records for hundreds of thousands of displaced people. 

The Syrian refugee migration is just the most recent example where highly educated professionals are excluded from participating to their full potential in their host country's economy. While credentialing programs exist--refugees' lack of funding to secure proper certification is a major barrier to access to education.

HigherEdPoints provides a unique solution: students can convert anyone's loyalty points into funding for tuition and student loan repayments. 

Given that there's over $100B in unused loyalty points sitting in North American's wallets, HigherEdPoints offers a compelling solution to refugees' funding challenges. 

With support from the Andan Foundation, HigherEdPoints can create specialized programs to redirect funding from loyalty points to refugees' pursuit of education in order to expand their economic and financial opportunities and to reinforce their self-reliance inclusion within their host communities.


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If you would like to apply for the Morgridge Family Foundation Community-Driven Innovation Prize, describe how you and your team will utilize the prize to advance your solution.

One of the biggest challenges facing youth today is funding higher education---finding the money to attend, and to repay enormous debts upon graduation.

HigherEdPoints.com has created an innovative solution access to a new source of renewable educational currency: loyalty points. 

There is $100B of loyalty currency sitting in the wallets of North Americans. With funding from the Morgridge Family Foundation, HigherEdPoints could mobilize that currency in order to fund millions of students higher education--unlocking economic prosperity on both an individual and societal level.

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