Step up for Students creates a digital marketplace for education and associated services, fueling innovation and choice among low-income and special needs students.
Education is the great equalizer. Yet when it comes to capturing opportunities to learn, there is a significant divide between the “haves” and “have nots.” Technology is a powerful tool that can change this, and non-profit organizations across the country are beginning to leverage it to bridge the gap.
Fueling Innovation and Choice
Take Step Up for Students. The Florida nonprofit helps to manage the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which provides students who are homeless or in foster or out-of-home care with tuition assistance to the private school of their parents’ choice or financial assistance to offset the transportation cost to an out-of-district public school. The group also helps administer a program that provides funds to Florida students with certain special needs to cover the costs of private school tuition and fees, private tutoring, occupational therapy and instructional materials and other services.
“At Step Up for Students, we don’t believe that quality education should be determined by financial means or disability, and we have made it our mission to give children from lower income families and those with special needs a chance at a brighter future through the scholarship programs we help to manage,” said Doug Tuthill, President, Step Up for Students.
For years, these programs were manually administered through paper forms and phone calls. It was a tedious process, and one that Step Up for Students felt could be improved. When it comes to education, most people don’t think about shopping for it. But Step Up for Students thinks differently. As consumers, we can quickly and easily shop for the things we want and need online. And with a few clicks on our laptops and mobile devices, we can compare prices and purchase them. Why couldn’t parents and caregivers be empowered to do the same when it comes to education? The technology was there to make to happen.
Step Up for Students decided to tap into that technology to create a digital marketplace through which education along with associated services and supplies can be purchased in a simple, consumer-like way. Using the cloud-based procurement applications and business network of SAP Ariba, the organization is building a one-stop shop where parents and caregivers of scholarship recipients can find, buy and pay for tuition at schools of their choice along with educational services and school supplies as easily as they might shop for clothes, books or music.
Bridging the Digital Divide
“Many of those we serve lack access to technology in their homes and it was critical that we remove this as a barrier,” said Scott Massey, Chief Information Officer, Step Up for Students. With SAP Ariba and its partner Premikati, Step Up for Students has designed a solution that can be accessed anywhere, anytime via any device, including mobile phones.
Procurement With Purpose
Technology is a powerful tool. Just like a hammer, it can be used to construct entirely new worlds. And if swung in the right direction with a purpose, it can build bridges that close the digital divide and lead the way to promising new realities. In consumerizing the process of procuring education and administering financial aid, Step Up for Students can empower parents to pursue and engage in the most appropriate learning options for their children, regardless of their financial situation and help educational institutions fulfill the promise of equal opportunity. And that’s where the real power of technology lies.