College Forward | 04.18.17

Investing in Student Success

CoFo Receives $200k Social Impact Loan from Local Investors

AUSTIN — College Forward, an Austin-based nonprofit aimed at increasing postsecondary success for low-income and first-generation college students, is thrilled to announce a social impact loan of $200,000 from six local Austin investors. The investment will support the expansion of CoPilot, College Forward’s in-house student information system.

With an ultimate goal of increasing success for an additional 300,000 students nationwide, the investment will be used to grow CoPilot through increased partnerships with college success organizations. Built on a cloud-based Salesforce platform, CoPilot allows educators and advisors to analyze student information in order to make timely, data-driven interventions that help keep students on the path to college success.

The investment has already allowed College Forward to expand the CoPilot team to meet growing demand, and secure contracts with ten new organizations serving a combined total of 25,000 low-income students. Over the course of four years, College Forward aims to generate dozens of new CoPilot partners and over $3 million in revenue, which will be reinvested into core programs.

“After a decade of research and evaluation CoPilot has emerged as a premier tool for college success organizations, and a successful earned income initiative for College Forward,” said College Forward CEO Austin Buchan. “We are excited to bring our efforts to scale and to leverage this innovative funding tool to help further our mission of expanding college and career success for 300,000 underserved students across the country.”

The investment is one of the first of its kind in Austin, and an example of emerging philanthropy methods that generate both financial returns and social benefits. Through the model, investors can have a meaningful and immediate impact on a local nonprofit, while creating an opportunity for capital to be reinvested in the community. In this way, a single investment can repeatedly facilitate positive social change.

Investors in the project include Dan and Lisa Graham (Notley Ventures), Clayton and Carly Christopher (CAVU Venture Partners), John Thornborrow (Austin Impact Capital), Eric Stumberg, the Aragona Family Foundation, and the Austin Community Foundation.

“Given CoPilot’s previous record of success, we were thrilled by the chance to help College Forward create a sustainable and scalable funding solution,” said Dan Graham of Notley Ventures. “We’re eager to support organizations seeking innovative funding models, and our hope is that more nonprofits start to explore impact investments as a way of amplifying their missions.”

CoPilot is already making a difference for college success organizations across the nation, with 29 partner agencies serving over 178,000 students. One success was highlighted during Austin’s 2017 SXSWedu festival, where College Forward and partner tnAchieves presented a case study of CoPilot’s impact on Tennessee’s statewide tuition-free community college initiative, Tennessee Promise.

About College Forward

College Forward is a college success organization that specializes in coaching low-income and first-generation students to and through college. Through strategic partnerships, innovative technology, and students-first policy initiatives, College Forward aims to reshape the higher education experience for underserved students across the nation. Since its founding in 2003, College Forward has grown from a cohort of 30 high school students to an organization serving over 8,000 high school and college students.