Text Me: ClearScholar Grabs $1.25M for App to Engage College Kids
When Jason Konesco worked as president of Harrison College in Indianapolis, he grew dismayed with graduation rate trends. Twenty years ago, the United States was first in the world for college graduations, he notes, while today that ranking has slipped to 13th. The National Center for Education found that only 59 percent of first-time, full-time students entering U.S. colleges and universities graduate within six years.
Students offered a number of different reasons to account for why they were dropping out, he says—too academically challenging, too expensive, too stressful—but that didn’t explain why they would turn up at a different school a few months later.
“When I started peeling back the layers of the onion, what it came down to was a lack of connection,” Konesco says. “When we as humans don’t feel connected, we tend to become disinterested.”
It was with this problem in mind that Konesco co-founded ClearScholar, an educational tech company and mobile app that aims to foster student engagement at the college level. Today, ClearScholar announced that it has raised $1.25 million in funding from High Alpha Capital, Elevate Ventures, Butler University, and a number of angel investors.
In early research after the company was formed in 2015, Konesco discovered that today’s college kids prefer texting to emails and phone calls, and that extends to how they want to communicate with their schools.
“We’re tackling how students engage with educational institutions for a more meaningful relationship,” Konesco explains. “Ideally, it’s a brand relationship that truly lasts a lifetime.”
ClearScholar’s app pulls in personalized information from disparate university sources—event calendars and articles relevant to the student’s area of study, for example—and puts it in one place. There’s a campus police button that is meant to replicate emergency call boxes; a section for grades, class schedules, and connecting with professors; and a campus map. App users can also use their smartphones like a college ID, enabling them to access dining facilities, libraries, and gyms.
University administrators can use the app to deliver push notifications, polls, or emergency alerts, and they also get insights that come from the app’s analytics. “The data science behind the app gives administrators access to untapped information, which they can use to help stay in front of students and stay connected,” Konesco says.
Butler University in Indianapolis was the first college to sign up for ClearScholar. The app was opened to 100 beta users there in August, and the company has been allowing groups of 500 or so to join every couple of weeks ever since. Konesco says ClearScholar will be available to all 5,000 students at Butler starting next week.
Konesco says ClearScholar will use its new capital to establish an early adopter program to encourage sales, and he expects three to five new universities to join the platform by spring. The 10-person company also plans to hire sales and marketing staff, doubling the total number of employees by the end of the year.