- Entrepreneur Names: Asha Owens and Rebecca Kwee
- Venture Name: BestFit
- Impact Focus Area: College Success, Civic Tech
- Business Stage: Startup
- Year Venture Established: 2018
- Business Type: Private, Social Enterprise
Basic needs insecurity among college students is worse than you think.
Millions of college students in the U.S. rely on their school for stable access to food, housing, transportation, and work: At least 48% of college students experience food or housing insecurity, and they are disproportionately Black & Latinx, first-generation, financially independent, parents/caregivers, or working 30+ hours.
While the federal government invests billions of dollars annually in higher education, financial aid alone does not cover the economic, social, and psychological costs associated with persisting and completing college. Many students still struggle to meet their basic needs, and may drop out of college as a result of competing financial obligations. Additionally, because of stigma, lack of awareness, and lack of time, students underutilize the many institutional & public benefits that are available to them — the US Government Accountability Office estimates that 57% of students at risk of food insecurity and eligible for SNAP did not collect those benefits.
The disparity in basic needs security among college students, as well as its impact on college persistance, is concerning given that 65% of jobs today still require some form of postsecondary education. However, 75% of low-income, underrepresented minority, and first-generation students who attend college will not graduate.
Redefining student success in a post-COVID-19 environment
We founded BestFit in 2018 to address the low college persistence rates among historically marginalized students. As graduate students at Columbia University in New York, we bonded over the fact that we both attended college without visiting in-person, and struggled to find a support system as well as access basic needs such as food or healthcare. Asha is a Columbus, GA native who left her home state to attend Brown University, while Rebecca attended Columbia as an international student from Singapore. Drawing from our past careers as software engineers and college counselors, we initially built a web platform where college students could share honest advice and insights through video stories.
When COVID-19 struck, we’d recently relocated to Atlanta to join Techstars + Cox Enterprises’ Social Impact Accelerator, and were in the middle of a pivot. We were disturbed by the fact that many college students were displaced from campus housing with little to no warning–while low-income, rural, foster-care, and international students were scrambling to find food, shelter, and/or internet, they were still expected to complete their coursework and finish the semester.
This drove us to design, launch, and build our free resource portal for displaced college students within a week. Our web platform helps students design their own safety nets by leveraging college, community, federal, and philanthropic resources all in one place. We’re building the most comprehensive and up-to-date resource portal for college students, and our team is hard at work updating resources on a weekly basis.
Students can use BestFit to:
- Find verified local and national resources for food, healthcare, transportation, financial assistance, and other basic needs;
- Determine eligibility and next steps;
- Submit resources they’ve found useful; and,
- Sign up for weekly updates on newly added resources.
In the wake of COVID-19, we’ve found the urgent need to expand our target population beyond college students to anyone facing a basic needs gap. After initial feedback from students, colleges, and community-based organizations, we’re developing a version of BestFit that helps any organization better connect their constituents to resources they need, when they need them.
Now, our goal is to scale our technology as a tool for building more equitable and resilient communities.
BestFit empowers college students to find and access the help they need, right when they need them, so they can focus on what matters—graduating. They are funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Cox Enterprises Social Impact Accelerator (powered by Techstars). The company is actively seeking organization, city, and corporate partnerships for their recently launched community resource tool. Please reach out to them at [email protected] for more information.
Other ways to stay updated:
- Instagram: @bestfit_app
- Twitter: @bestfit_app
- Sign Up through Website: http://best-fit.app