What do the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, President Bill Clinton and MTV all have in common?  By the way, if you guessed Bill Clinton will be on the next season of the Jersey Shore, you are way off base.

The project Get Schooled was announced at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U), President Bill Clinton stated that MTV and the College Board — with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — will develop a first of its kind social media tool to help students find money for college.

Actually, this represents MTV’s second consecutive commitment at CGI U, which is modeled on the successful Clinton Global Initiative and engages the next generation of leaders on college campuses around the world. The concept for the interactive application was imagined by recent University of Nevada, Las Vegas graduate Devin Valencia, who President Clinton announced as the winner of the ““Get Schooled” College Affordability Challenge.

The Affordability Challenge, called on current and aspiring college students to submit innovative digital tools to simplify the financial aid process. More than 200 concepts were submitted, and three finalists were unveiled at a Jan. 19 briefing on Capitol Hill. Valencia’s idea was selected based on audience voting and a panel of college affordability experts received a development budget of up to $100,000, also received a $10,000 prize.

The app, which will launch later this year, will leverage information from a user’s Facebook profile to automatically present a tailored list of relevant financial aid opportunities. The tool will also enable users to tap into their Facebook friends and get help navigating what can be a difficult financial aid maze. Additionally, the app will provide step-by-step tutorials on important processes like filling out the FAFSA form and deciding how much debt to take on.

Devin Valencia, the UNLV graduate who won the “Get Schooled” College Affordability Challenge stated:

“Navigating the financial aid process can be incredibly challenging — we need a way to make it easier for students, I’m thrilled that MTV and the College Board are turning my idea into a reality, and hope that this Facebook app acts as a starting point, connecting students with grants, scholarships and loans to finance their education.”

We are living in a global economy and the next generation will be competing for jobs in a worldwide talent pool.  The United States is challenged by rising tuition and risk falling due to sky-rocketing costs.

President Bill Clinton was quoted saying:

“College affordability is an urgent issue that demands innovation and a fundamental rethinking of the ways students access higher education, a college degree is not just critical, it is essential to America’s economic future, and it’s important that we continue to find ways to harness the power of technology to close the educational opportunity gap.”

Just so you know, Get Schooled is not just relying on a student project to roll out.  They have enlisted  heavyweight frog design in the process. If you are not familiar with frog design, they are an incredibly innovative company that have designed products for Apple, HP, Victoria’s Secret and a list far too long to mention in this post. The real bonus for these aspiring app developers was that the finalists worked with world-class innovation firm frog design to iterate their ideas, and from March 7 to March 20, thousands of college students nationwide voted for their favorite idea. If you are new to the world of app development, you realize that is a pretty big deal working with a firm so heavily respected in the industry.

Robert Fabricant, VP of Creative, frog design puts in his 2 cents:

“We were thrilled to partner with MTV, the College Board, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to collaborate with Devin — and all of the highly creative finalists in the College Affordability Challenge — by engaging her in the same rigorous design process that frog design uses with the world’s leading companies to turn great ideas into reality. Devin’s concept represents a huge step forward by reaching kids in their own environment, Facebook, and on their own terms, that is the true power of participatory design – it reframes solutions from the user’s perspective.”

In the past year we have seen the enormous impact of social media applications from reporting uprisings to announcing tsunamis.  Much of social media can been written off as white noise or ego driven behavior, but Get Schooled represent the good that it can bring.

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