While there are millions of dollars in non-repayable funding opportunities available, accessing these opportunities is nearly impossible for students that need them most. Marginalized and low-income students are forced to work while studying to make ends meet. They don’t have the time that’s needed to search for funding and navigate through pages of eligibility criteria for a scholarship, bursary, or grant.
To make matters worse, the application process is daunting, especially for students experiencing more personal issues than the average student. These forces compound each other and cause otherwise able students to fall through the cracks.
Our Journey at Carleton
At age 16, our founder Zuberi was forced into homelessness and university was far out of reach. Until one day, with the help of some amazing high school guidance counsellors, Zuberi discovered scholarships. After figuring out the application process and applying for multiple opportunities, Zuberi was able to turn his life around and earn over $50,000 in scholarships towards fulfilling his dream: attending Carleton University. As a Black, at-risk youth, Zuberi knew that winning these scholarships saved his life - That’s why he made it his mission to help others like him achieve the same success:
“Once I graduated, I knew I had to do everything I could to help others not only afford their education, but to realize that their dreams are within reach. Education changed my life and it’s my goal for every student to realize it can change theirs.”
While studying at Carleton, Zuberi devoted his free time to helping students find and win scholarships of their own. What began as a one-man show snowballed into an organized service that caught the attention of the Carleton University Students’ Association (CUSA), who were looking for ways to help students acquire funding and relieve student debt.
After a rigorous background check, CUSA agreed to a non-monetary, probational partnership that would allow them to gauge whether or not students were willing to pay for the service. As it turns out, they were. Students won over $100,000 through the program entering Zuberi and CUSA into a formal partnership. As a result, Zuberi was able to reduce the cost of the service, receive a small, vacant office space on campus, and collect a $250/month honorarium.
Despite this honorarium, Zuberi was working long hours for very little pay, sometimes serving upwards of 5 clients per day working 1-on-1 with them to find scholarships. Between liaising with students, setting up appointments, and curating individualized lists of funding opportunities, Zuberi was making far less than minimum wage. Students evidently needed help but the current model wasn’t sustainable, and he recognized that something needed to change.
Not only was Zuberi overwhelmed with demand and completely under-resourced – he also realized that the low-income students who need him most couldn’t afford his service. He needed to create a scalable solution that could help every student overcome their financial burdens.
That’s when FundQi was born - a scalable solution to help all students get the funding they need through scholarships, grants, internships & more. Through the online platform, students can find unique funding opportunities for themselves and also receive 1-on-1 guidance on application processes and essay writing to maximize their chances of success.
As demand for the service grew, in 2018, CUSA agreed to subsidize the service for 1,500 students. After an on-campus campaign, those 1,500 spots were quickly taken by students.
The results spoke for themselves - In 2019, a few months into students using the service, a survey was sent to those who used the platform. 100 survey respondents who used the service reported earning $5,200 on average - that’s a total of $520,000+.
It was very clear that the service worked, and students needed it. However, CUSA was unable to subsidize it for all of the students who wanted to use it.
This is when FundQi began looking into student levy fees and saw that, through small levies on tuition that all students pay into, students are able to access high-quality services that would otherwise be unaffordable. A levy often costs less than a pizza per student, but with all students paying in, the price of a service can be brought down significantly so that students who require access to different services, can have access at a fraction of the cost.
At the time, the cost of FundQi’s service was $125+HST per semester for students who wanted to register on their own. This cost is quite high for students, but by creating a levy on tuition, we could reduce the cost of the service by 92% down to $9.99 and make it possible for students to access a high-quality service at an affordable price.
To students who need financial assistance, this created a fair opportunity for them to pursue their education without financial barriers.
In 2019, FundQi proposed a referendum with hopes to bring the cost of the service down and make it accessible for all. Not every student would win a scholarship, but every student would have access to a service that helped their chances significantly
A motion was passed in council with every single councillor voting in favour (aside from one abstention) to hold a referendum for the levy fee to be included on tuition. After a rigorous campaign with more than 20 volunteers, 160 class talks, and 50 hours of student outreach, the majority of students voted in January 2020 to introduce the FundQi levy.
Yes – 3,907
No – 3,232
Abstain – 1,671
In what was the highest voter turnout since the last two CUSA elections, nearly 4,000 students made an informed decision to create a FundQi levy fee on tuition. It was a victory for Carleton students, especially those from low-income homes, who now had access to a service that could help ease their financial burden.
How We’re Helping Carleton Students
The number of available scholarships and bursaries goes far beyond the first five pages of Google, so tapping into all of them is nearly impossible for the average student.
Our team has spent thousands of hours scraping every scholarship, bursary, grant, or internship from every resource at our disposal. We’ve created a comprehensive database that uses a proprietary algorithm to match students with funding opportunities that are relevant to them.
In addition to our matching service, we offer 1-on-1 application assistance and guidance at no additional cost. Filling out successful applications is an art that we’ve mastered, and we use our knowledge to help students win the funding they deserve.
Endowment = Exclusive Funding for Carleton Students
Since the referendum in January 2020, we’ve successfully cultivated relationships with private donors to create an endowment fund dedicated to Carleton Students. Most recently, in December 2020, one of these donors announced that FundQi will be exclusively offering funding from their private endowment fund. Our long-term goal is to keep growing this endowment by bringing in more private donors through our alumni network.
We’re excited to give Carleton students exclusive opportunities and make education more accessible for everyone.
Why We’re an Opt-Out Service
Without a levy, our services cost $100/year plus $50 per application submitted for editing. Other services similar to ours cost upwards of $1,200 which can alienate students from low-income households that need funding the most. By creating a levy on tuition, we’re able to subsidize the service and make it possible for students to access a high-quality service at an affordable price.
The purpose of the levy is to make the service affordable and accessible to those who need it.
Similar to U-pass, Health and Dental Plan, WUSC, Foot Patrol, the Food Bank, or The Womyn’s Centre, these services are subsidized by the student body so that every student in need can get the support they require.
Not every student will use the service, and not everyone that does will win a scholarship. But supporting the service means supporting your fellow students. In fact, many students who voted “yes” to create the levy did not believe they would need to access our service. Rather, they wanted to help other students who had nowhere else to turn for extra financial support.
With our service, students are able to opt-out afterwards and receive full reimbursement for the levy paid.
What Sets FundQi Apart
Similar services to FundQi exist, but none of them are as secure or affordable. For example, free scholarship matchers are are able to offer their service for free by selling your personal data. We take student privacy seriously. In our terms of service, it’s there in writing that we’ll never sell your information.
FundQi also offers application assistance and essay editing, a service that isn’t offered by our competitors. When you submit an essay for review on our platform, you’ll get personalized one-on-one assistance from an experienced specialist.
Our mission is plain and simple and has been since the beginning: to make education accessible to everyone. We believe that everyone has a right to education, and we’re empowering students to overcome financial obstacles to achieve their dreams.