Looking for to give back to the community this holiday season? Look no further than CollegeSet, a new project from a San Francisco-based nonprofit, Juma Ventures, which aims to help low-income college students set up a savings account to help them pay their way through college and get their degree.

Though a college degree is a “proven pathway out of poverty,” Juma says that only 47% of low-income high school grads go on to college; of that 47%, only 20% graduate from college. Extrapolating from these two data points, we can say that approximately 10% of low-income high school grads ever get a college degree.

Juma Ventures, an 18-year-old nonprofit based in San Francisco, is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty by getting low-income children into and through college, using market-oriented solutions.

They do this using a three-pronged approach:

  • they help their members find employment
  • set up a bank account for them and match their savings
  • and work closely with their students and provide academic support.

Their latest effort, CollegeSet, leverages Juma’s corporate partnerships with the power of the web to help high school students save for college.

Rather than give out a scholarship, Juma Ventures wants their students to be a bit more invested in the process, and to learn about financial planning in the process. With these goals in mind, they created CollegeSet.org. The program aims both to teach financial literacy and to help students pay their way through college.

“We’re investing in students who are investing in themselves,” said Nick Hutchinson, Juma’s Chief Development Officer, when we spoke with him over the phone. They want students with skin in the game, he explained.

So through CollegeSet.org, you can learn more about their members’ interests and goals, and make an investment in their future if you’re interested. Want to invest in a student interested in studying journalism, for example? You can filter for that on the site.

If you donate, Juma’s corporate partners will match your donation. For every dollar that the students save themselves, the same is true. And, Hutchinson explained, it works out to a 3:1 match for anyone making donations through the site, because Juma also makes large donations to students’ savings accounts at certain milestones — when a student completes their applications for financial aid, for example, they get $250 from Juma.

By incentivizing financial literacy, Juma hopes to help their students succeed financially while they’re in college, and once they’re done. They’ll be able to prepare a budget, Hutchinson explained, or distinguish their wants from their needs better. These skills last a lifetime.

And should you decide to donate this holiday season, you can rest assured that your money — and the matching funds — will be put to proper use. The cash is put into money market accounts held in trust, so that it is ascertained that the money goes towards education-related expenses; Hutchinson explained that this is used loosely enough to give the students leeway to do what they need.

If you want to give a gift that you know will be doubled, and will help a child pursue their dreams, CollegeSet is exactly the place to look. And if you’re looking for other local charities that are helping low-income students get through college, here’s a few others to consider for your holiday giving:

Harlem Children’s Zone: Geoffrey Canada’s renowned program in Uptown Manhattan aims to provide ‘cradle-to-career’ guidance for every child born in a 100 block radius in Harlem. HCZ starts working with parents before their child is even born, and aims to support each child all the way through to their career. His program has been influential — President Obama even modeling a program after it. Visit or donate here.

American Indian College Fund: Founded in 1989, the American Indian College Fund provides college scholarships to 6,000 Native American students every year. Many of them go to tribal colleges, which help keep Native American culture alive generation to generation, and which don’t receive much in the way of state and local tax dollars. Visit or donate here.

Scholarship America: Founded in 1958, Scholarship America is the biggest private scholarship foundation, and aims to make secondary education a reality for all Americans. Visit or donate here.

DonorsChoose: A newer charity, founded in 2000, DonorsChoose allows donors to pick from a list of public school educational projects that need outside funding, and donate specifically to help these programs become a reality. In this sense, it’s a lot like CollegeSet, but less focused on secondary education. Visit or donate here.

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