Student Connections is helping solve big problems and changing lives

Tech jobs are hot. Tech sector growth is making headlines from coast to coast and Indianapolis is home to some of the fastest tech jobs growth in the nation, which is great. This exciting growth, however, is not limited to software developers and other highly technical roles. It’s not just for those companies we easily identify as tech, and it’s not even limited to for-profits.

Indianapolis-based Student Connections, for example, is a mission-driven, tech-enabled nonprofit that’s working to help solve one of our country’s biggest economic challenges, and they’re changing lives while they do it. Jobs in tech sales, product development, and marketing with the organization have been filled in recent months and an additional eight tech sales positions will be created before the end of the year as Student Connections continues to grow.

According to the Federal Reserve, there’s over $1.3 trillion in student loan debt growing by the thousands every second in this country. More than 25 percent of those who start college drop out without obtaining a degree, often due to non-academic circumstances outside of their control or simply due to the realities of life.

There are many, many players — private, governmental and nonprofit — but Student Connections is one of the few offering solutions that aid students throughout the entire life cycle before, during and after the post-secondary experience; and one of the only players delivering solutions with advanced mobile technologies.

Craig Anderson

Craig AndersonPresident

“It might sound a bit cliche, but what we do at Student Connections is partner with schools and universities nationwide to help their students succeed, to help them become better consumers of post-secondary education and that ultimately benefits all of us” said Craig Anderson, president of Student Connections.

“Schools and universities educate students on academics and we help with the non-academic life skills through our tech products and services. Our WhichWay app is like a personal assistant for students helping them make good decisions for themselves, and if they have trouble down the road, we can help them get back on track, too.”

Student Connections has two primary categories of products and services:

Success Center – proprietary, student-centric solution for empowering students with the non-academic skills critical to overcoming barriers to student success, including the virtual personal assistant “WhichWay” app

Borrower Connect™ – patented, web-based, comprehensive software to enable better communication with borrowers and a service to partially or fully outsource a school’s or university’s loan default prevention efforts, including a call center, analytics and real-time dashboard of the loan portfolio

All of the operations for sales, marketing and product development for its Success Center and Borrower Connect products are handled by Student Connections’ 25-member professional staff, and the call center employs another 25 full time and up to 30 part-time and temporary employees. Software development is “INsourced” to two different Indianapolis-based companies — Level Up Development and eimagine.

“We’re building products and building this company here in Indiana and the vision isn’t about finding the cheapest way to do it. Anderson explained. It’s about hiring the best people for our team and working with partners in our own ecosystem to make an impact.”

He also noted that Student Connections works with more Indianapolis-based companies like SmallBox on marketing projects, netlogx on business processes, and Emplify on employee engagement. The company also has a shared services agreement with the Strada Education Network for backend office functions like accounting and human resources.

Student Connections originally spun out of the Strada Education Network (formerly United Student Aid Funds or USA Funds), which shifted its focus and business model entirely a few years ago from a loan guarantor to an education philanthropy and investing organization.

William Hansen

William HansenPresident & CEO, Strada Education Network

“We are proud of our work of promoting financial access to higher education during the past half century,” William Hansen, Strada Education president and CEO, said in a written statement in March.

“But the challenges facing higher education, as well as the evolving needs of our nation’s workforce and economy, compel us to direct our attention to helping more students succeed in postsecondary education and graduate with the skills and competencies they need to smoothly transition to their careers and lives following graduation.”

Last month, Strada announced it’s moving its headquarters next year from Fishers, Ind. to Market Tower in downtown Indianapolis. Student Connections, which moved into its own facility in the Castleton area about a year ago, is rapidly outgrowing the space.

“When we moved here we were excited to be able to create our own space and develop our own unique culture. We designed the space with our employees in mind and purposefully included areas that are great for gathering and impromptu engagement — all the things that well-designed workplaces are known for,” Anderson said. “We initially thought we’d have a few years like this, but we’re full, completely full. When we close the next big deal we’re going to have to get serious about expanding a couple years ahead of schedule.”

The growth trajectory for Student Connections is nearly unlimited, as the U.S. has more than 7,500 post-secondary schools (including four-year accredited, community colleges and for-profit institutions), and Student Connections currently works with more than 520 campuses across the country. While the market does have a significant number of competitors, there is no singular dominant brand in terms of market share. Student Connections’ nonprofit, mission-driven approach and advanced mobile platforms differentiate its offerings in this crowded marketplace.

“I think the message we really want to leave people with is that if they are looking for a place to grow their careers in tech sales, marketing or product development, and if working for a mission-driven company that’s solving big problems and actually helping people is something that matters to them, then we’d love to have them join our team,” Anderson said.

Student Connections

CATEGORY: Education Technology, Mobile App Technology CITY: Indianapolis

We're focused on helping students overcome barriers that can get in the way of success in college and beyond.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joshua Hall is editor of techpoint.org. He writes about Indiana tech companies, jobs, people & events. @joshua2349