Education Opportunity Project Spotlight: Nickels

Nickels Logo

Voqal believes that the opportunity gap is the most pervasive and damaging problem in the U.S. educational system. We define the opportunity gap as the educational disparity and inequity that exists across racial and class lines and believe it is one of the root causes of rising economic inequality. The Education Opportunity Project seeks to measurably reduce educational opportunity gaps by providing capital and strategic advice to entrepreneurs and organizations working to improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged populations. In this month’s Education Opportunity Project spotlight, we highlight Nickels, an app aimed at helping student loan borrowers get a handle on their debt.

Nickels founder and CEO, Joseph Gracia created the Nickels app to help ensure that student borrowers can use their loans to build up their credit profiles, rather than undermine their financial futures. An idea he conceived while spending a summer as an Entrepreneur in Residence with ideas42, a nonprofit innovation firm that applies insight behavioral science to create a social impact.

Nickels is aimed at keeping borrowers on track with the simplest path to manage their debt. It harnesses the power of behavioral science to help students take the right actions when it comes to their debt. While current loan counseling approaches focus on financial literacy, Nickels believes it is attention – not financial education – that is often the limiting factor. Nickels harnesses the attention that comes naturally at critical moments that matter.

Working with the best applied behavioral scientists in the world, Nickels identified 9 seemingly small but practically important behavioral pitfalls that trip borrowers up during the repayment process. They include:

  • Limited Attention
  • Choice Overload
  • Default Selection
  • Decision Aversion
  • Hassle Factors
  • Procrastination
  • Saliency
  • Future Discounting
  • Ostriching

Nickels uses a series of designed behavioral interventions to guide student borrowers to take the most important actions with the least amount of friction to overcome these behavioral pitfalls and keep their loans in great shape.

Voqal is excited to honor the legacy of Education Broadband Service (EBS) by supporting organizations like Nickels that are working tirelessly to create a more equitable educational playing field in the United States. Learn more about the Education Opportunity Project here.