Innovations to Tackle College Financial Readiness

College education is one of the key drivers of financial security, and the high costs of college attendance can be a challenge for students from financially vulnerable households. Commonwealth designed and tested an innovative solution to this challenge: Ramp It Up, a gamified college financial readiness app.

In October 2015, the US Department of Treasury awarded Commonwealth a contract to refine and study the effects of the app, which provides high school students with information about financial choices related to college. Ramp It Up uses gaming features such as lives, power-ups, badges, and embedded mechanics to encourage engagement with learning objectives and resources. Many people, particularly youth, like the challenge, competition, and entertainment that games provide, which makes games an effective teaching tool.

We tested Ramp It Up with almost 1,000 students to learn about its effectiveness in engaging students, changing mindsets, building knowledge, and prompting action. We found that Ramp It Up:

  • was overwhelmingly endorsed by students as worth recommending to a friend, a key component of any distribution strategy;
  • significantly increased confidence in paying for college;
  • and led to statistically significant improvements in critical college finance knowledge among players.

Learn more in our Executive Summary as well as Ramp It Up: Evaluation of a Gamified College Financial Readiness App, a detailed report on our research.

We also surveyed and interviewed key stakeholders to understand how to best design and distribute a gamified college financial readiness app and what roles federal and state government can play in promoting innovations. Findings from this work are described in Ramp It Up: Gamifying College Finanical Readiness.

Ramp It Up was designed to complement and enhance the effectiveness of other college financial readiness efforts. By using gamification to make this critical topic more fun and exciting, students will be better equipped to make smart decisions around paying for college, and on a course toward stronger lifelong financial security.

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