The death of a librarian left her life’s work in limbo. Here’s how to find a new home

How do you value free resources that serve low-income students? And how do you build a business model to keep the database running while protecting the privacy of dependent students?

Edsurge asked those questions in a story about a college-scholarship database created in August 2020 by a beloved librarian named Gail Schlaster.

The database that runs the reference service press book-publishing company, which includes nearly 30,000 financial-aid opportunities that have been diligently researched for decades, faced an uncertain future when Schlaster died in 2015. A longtime friend of the librarian found a new home in a database faithfully maintained. An edtech startup, but company leaders weren’t sure how to make the best use of it while maintaining its open-access legacy.

“Where can this thing live digitally so that it is out of the hands of one person and in the hands of everyone?” Drew Magliozi, the startup’s CEO and co-founder, now called Mainstay.

The AdSerge story answered. After the article was published, companies and philanthropic leaders approached Magliozi with ideas and offers to use the scholarship database. One corporation offered six figures in cash. Nonprofit offered to help transform Mainstay into a public-facing tool.

When leaders from the Michael & Susan Dale Foundation and the National Scholarship Providers Association read the story, they realized that Schlachter’s database could improve their joint efforts to create an online tool that collects and displays up-to-date data on financial aid opportunities.

“As I read it, I thought, ‘We’re going to add thousands and thousands of programs. If Mainstay already has this data and they are looking for a home for it, why don’t we just bring it on board? ” Says Kevin Byrne, Senior Director, United States, Michael & Susan Dale Foundation. “It’s just a victory, it’s a great story, based on what she’s developed over the years, and it will short-circuit our timeline to list all the programs.”

While the tool, called NSPA Exchange, is available to scholarship-providing institutions, other institutions may request permission to use the data to create their own scholarship-search system for direct use. Among the groups using the data is the College Board, which in 2020 saw 5 million people visit online scholarship search tools.

The Dell Foundation made an offer to Mainstay: for a symbolic sum of 100, it would “purchase” the database and transfer it to the National Scholarship Providers Association to promote the exchange. Accepted the main basis.

“Finally we weighed all the options and we thought of a combination of these: what is good for business? What’s good for a database? What’s good for the world? “Says Magliozi.” For the long-term benefit of doing what is right for the students, it makes the most sense to get this data out there and keep alive the legacy of what Gayle has created. “

One factor influencing this decision is that the National Scholarship Providers Association has a system in place to update and keep accurate data on exchanges — a major challenge, as information about scholarship availability, eligibility criteria, prize money, and application deadlines change frequently.

“Maintaining data is just as important as data, and it has a half-life if not carefully maintained,” says Magliozi. “What Kevin did for us was really fascinating. It’s not just a database, it’s a group of people who are really committed to making this a sustainable, ongoing and growing venture.”

No one understood the importance of database maintenance more than Dave Weber, a close friend of Schlaster’s, who has continued her work since her death, mainly on her own. Under the new arrangement, Weber will act as a paid consultant for the National Scholarship Providers Association as it integrates the database into its exchanges.

“I’m happy about it,” says Weber. “I agree with everyone involved that this is valuable information and I want to see it come out.”

The ownership of the database is stated in the transfer agreement, which Magliozi calls the “Don’t Be Ike” clause. It encourages organizations that use the exchange to “not take advantage of students’ data in ways that infringe on their privacy or best interests,” as they sell it.

“We’re giving this freely so that it can be given freely,” says Magliozi. “I don’t like to be deceived into sharing student data and doing something that would be against their best interests while looking for ways to pay for college. That would be a great shame. “

Bayern reaffirmed that sentiment.

“There are still scams that students and families are really vulnerable to. We didn’t think it should be a database, “he says. “We want that high-quality, curated, really filtered list that students have in mind.”

To that end, leaders of the Mainstay, the Dale Foundation and the National Scholarship Providers Association say they plan to monitor the behavior of organizations with access to data to ensure they adhere to high standards. For example, the College Board states that students who use its Scholar Search tool do not have to choose to share their information for other purposes or services.

One of Schlachter’s ways to improve data exchange stems from the librarian’s work to carefully identify scholarships for a set of people who do not always have full access to higher education. This type of personalization — which allowed the reference service press to publish books specifically for women, people of color, and people with disabilities ज्या is expected of the way many people search for information today: through digital search tools that provide personalized results.

“Native American Data and Indigenous Students [data]- It’s just astronomical. We had very little before that, “says Bayern. “Children of military programs and military service members is another area that will be completely redundant.”

In addition, the Reference Services press database contains carefully researched scholarship opportunities that students are unlikely to find if they rely solely on Google search, as many help providers do not have websites किंवा or no online presence, says Alison Danielsen, senior director. College and career connections on the college board.

“Finding a scholarship is a very difficult experience,” says Danielsen. “Affordability to college is one of the biggest concerns for most students. “That’s why the expansion of the database is so good: that’s what students want to see.”

For Weber, helping Database get a new home feels satisfying after the service he has provided.

“I did this in part to introduce Gail Schlaster; It was almost her memory, ”he says. “I’m glad to see it being used.”

Leaders of the Mainstay, the Dale Foundation and the National Scholarship Providers Association say they are happy to work to give Schlatter’s database a new lease of life.

“It simply came to our notice then. How come you don’t feel good about all this work over the years and its effect on the students? ” Says Bayern. “It’s a story we hope you’ll continue to share.”

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