GAO Report on Financial Aid Offers Shows Little Has Changed, Progress is Needed

Response by Hannah Smith, Moneythink VP of Partnerships, and Brendan Williams, uAspire VP of Knowledge

For most students and their families, costs are a determining factor of where and whether they can attend college. While some progress has been made in recent years to increase cost transparency, financial aid communication still leaves students and their families in the dark.

Last week, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Congress’ non-partisan research agency, released a report that highlights glaring gaps in cost transparency in financial aid offers. These offers are a primary lever for students and families deciding which college to enroll in, or whether to attend college at all. While it comes as no surprise to those of us supporting students to interpret their offers, it was disappointing to see that the GAO’s findings echo research from nearly five years ago – with minimal progress made.

Decoding the Cost of College, released in 2018 by New America and uAspire, identified the troubling ambiguity and inconsistency of the information included in financial aid offers and made recommendations to provide the financial information students need. While many colleges have adopted more straightforward terminology, added cost calculations, and made other recommended changes, this recent research shows more needs to be done. Students and families still lack the information they need to make informed financial decisions about where to attend college and avoid taking on an unsustainable amount of student debt.

The study found that an estimated 91% of colleges don’t include or understate the net price of attendance in their aid offers. This makes it nearly impossible for a student to determine how much they will pay to attend a school. The report also highlighted the need to separate loans from financial aid that a student doesn’t have to pay back, like grants, and to distinguish that Parent PLUS loans require parents to meet borrowing criteria and often carry high interest rates. Additionally, the study found that 55% of colleges don’t state the total cost of attendance – including housing and meals fees, books and supplies, and other expenses.

While the GAO report sheds light on the ongoing need to improve and standardize financial aid and college cost communications, it must be undertaken in partnership with students and families. Solutions to improve terminology and formatting are well within reach, but we must ensure that:

  • student and family voices and experiences are prioritized in the development process; and
  • every element of the financial aid offer is consumer-tested to ensure the intended clarity is realized.

To do anything else would be a disservice to those most impacted by how financial aid is communicated. For many students, college is one of life’s most expensive decisions, with consequences that can persist for decades. Students have the right to clear, accurate, and timely information about the price of higher education so they can be empowered consumers.

Organizations like uAspire and Moneythink have been directly supporting students and advocating for these best practices through our programs and products for decades. Through our partnership, we’re providing cost transparency and elevating the voice of students, educators, and families who suffer at the hands of these inequitable practices. Students deserve a transparent and navigable process for financing college, especially when leveraging their futures with loans to pay for a college degree.

About Moneythink
Moneythink has been a leading youth-centric financial capability organization for 15 years, supporting students to choose affordable colleges that align to their academic interests and financial circumstances. Our free online college affordability tool, DecidED, follows many of the best practices outlined in the GAO report, such as calculating the affordability of an award letter based on how much money a student would have to come up with to cover college costs and pulling apart free money and money that must be paid back.

About uAspire
For over 35 years, uAspire has worked to remove financial barriers to college success for students of color, low-income students, and first-generation college students by providing the financial information and resources necessary to find an affordable path to and through college. Based on our experiences supporting students and training practitioners, we developed the College Cost Calculator, a free online tool designed to help students decipher their financial aid offers and make an apples-to-apples comparison between colleges.

Introducing Our New VP of Development and External Relations

Please join us in welcoming our new VP of Development and External Relations, Shevrin Jones, to the Moneythink team!

Shevrin brings diverse experience in development, fundraising, and organizational leadership to our organization. He graduated from Florida A&M (an HBCU) with a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. Thereafter, he taught AP Chemistry for several years. From 2015 to 2018, he held the position of Director of Major Gifts and Strategic Partnerships for City Year Miami, an organization devoted to helping young people discover fulfilling opportunities. There, Shevrin managed a portfolio of around 150 donors and prospects and took an active role in identifying strategies to identify, cultivate, and maintain new sources of gifts and support.

As the first Executive Director of Florida Reading Corps, he secured the funding to expand the program from only three schools to statewide. As V.P. of National Advancement at Entrepreneurship For All, Shevrin developed fundraising and growth strategies with the mission of helping people launch their own businesses.

Shevrin served as a Florida State Representative from 2012-2021 and currently serves as State Senator, where he represents the largest Black district in the state. He was the first gay and LGBTQ Black person elected to the Florida legislature. Shevrin was recently appointed by the Biden Administration to serve on the Board of Advisors for HBCUs. He is completing his PhD in Educational Leadership with a focus on Black and Brown student post-secondary retention.

“I am so proud to be part of the Moneythink team,” Shevrin said. “When you can combine innovation into social good, and connect it to college affordability, I believe it is a win-win for everyone, especially our next generation.”

Welcome, Shevrin! We are so fortunate to have you on the team.

Welcome, Meera!

Moneythink is thrilled to welcome Meera Iyer to our Board of Directors!⁠

Meera currently leads marketing for Lending at SoFi and previously led product strategy for credit cards and loyalty at Discover Financial Services. She is excited to use her expertise in consumer financial services to drive adoption of Moneythink’s tools to empower students to pursue an affordable college education.

To learn more about Meera and the rest of our Board of Directors, visit our Team page.

In Heartfelt Memory of Tino Nyandoro

Our team is deeply saddened to share gut-wrenching news that Tino Nyandoro, one of our student interns, lost his life in a car accident in his home country of Zimbabwe. Tino was studying at Stanford University and had gone home for a short family visit before returning to school for the fall.

We offer our deepest condolences to Tino’s family and all those who held him close. It was clear that Tino’s life was filled with purpose and positive activity. This was noticeable even in the relatively short time he spent with our organization since June. We were all so impressed by and in awe of his deep, sincere curiosity, his graciousness, and his kind smile.

The world is certainly better because of Tino, and his example inspires us to live with even more genuine kindness, empathy, and purpose. If you would like to contribute directly to a memorial fund for Tino’s family, please contact

A Remote Design Sprint Breakthrough

Recently, Moneythink Product Designer Jeanmarie Levy spearheaded a virtual design sprint – a feat which included organizing colleagues in three different time zones and several countries. The goal of the sprint was to improve the DecidED Advisor Dashboard and promote a more collaborative creative design space. 

Design sprints help make DecidED more user-friendly. Traditionally, these events take place in person; however, to increase accessibility, Jeanmarie organized this virtual version to ensure everyone had a seat at the table.

We are excited to share Jeanmarie’s story and process with you, and highlight how we’re already improving DecidED. As a nimble fintech non-profit, we believe in empowering our team to explore cutting-edge approaches to improve the lives of everyone who uses DecidED. 

(Jeanmarie was interviewed by our Communications and Marketing Consultant, Melissa Ramos. Our interview has been edited for clarity.)

Our Q&A With Jeanmarie

Melissa Ramos: Thanks for meeting to talk about your most recent design sprint! Tell us about your background and how you found yourself at Moneythink.

Jeanmarie Levy: My name is Jeanmarie and I serve as the Product Designer here at Moneythink. I am most excited about this work because the organization’s mission directly aligns with my core values of promoting access, retention and advocacy for first generation students. I myself identify as first-gen. Also, I am a former educator. I saw oftentimes where students would fall through the cracks of the college application process. Moneythink’s overall goal of reducing student debt is truly exciting for me. I have always been passionate about service and nonprofit organizations and how technology can improve people’s lives.

Melissa: It seems like your career and life experiences have helped you create a better informed product with DecidED, because you have a holistic understanding of the type of person this product serves.

Jeanmarie: Absolutely.

Melissa: Switching gears, can you explain the idea behind a design sprint? 

Jeanmarie: The idea for design sprints is a forward-thinking concept, where essentially, a team has a certain number of days to meet specific goals. These days are fully devoted to improving a product or design. Sprints bring teams together for cross collaboration, since it is beneficial for organizations to collectively come up with ideas together, instead of putting all the pressure on individuals to make big decisions. Design sprints allow us to do deep creative work around a specific problem, using our brains fully for this purpose.

Moneythink: How do you feel design sprints help Moneythink improve DecidED?

Jeanmarie: Design sprints help inform our product because we make time to take a step back and view the problems we are tackling more holistically. Design sprints give us the opportunity to empathize with users. We pride ourselves on being an equity centered organization, and we are constantly thinking about our users as a result. In this recent design sprint, we wanted to take things to the next level, so we brought in all of our teams – engineers, the development team, the partnership team, everyone. Design sprints help our product, our organization and employees better understand why we do what we do.

Melissa: Can you talk about human centered design factors into design sprints at Moneythink?

Jeanmarie: We strive to do human centered design and more so, equity centered design. Human centered design means the user is at the center of all decisions, but equity centered design invites users directly into the conversation. Equity centered design gives users the agency to make these bigger decisions with our product improvements. This is how we ended up on this particular design sprint topic: trying to improve our Advisor Dashboard. We made improvements based on real time advisor feedback.

Melissa: How did this fully remote design sprint differ from a traditional design sprint? 

Jeanmarie: Improving the Advisor Dashboard was a big challenge. We knew we needed a diverse team in order to make this happen – and I want to shout out Ben May (our API Product Manager) for helping me think outside of the box with this design sprint.

We involved our engineers because they are our product experts. They help to build this product every day. They’re all located in different countries. Our engineers are contractors, and we as an organization strive for them to have full ownership of this product. We are cognizant of the fact that we are an American organization working with contractors outside of the US. My biggest goal was to make sure our engineers felt included and that their expertise was highlighted. It was very impactful to have all of our engineers there, some of whom have been working on DecidED from the beginning.

Our goals going into the design sprint were composed of two parts. We wanted a solution for Advisor Dashboard improvement, but we also wanted to build this inspiring and collaborative team where everyone felt they had a voice. As a result of this design sprint, we have seen an increase in morale and trust, and overall positivity among all of us. The feedback was that it was awesome to have all teams cross collaborate and learn more about what our users go through.

Melissa: As the architect of this design sprint, what do you feel were the key takeaways?

Jeanmarie: Our advisors and educators have such a challenging and overwhelming role since they are trying to advocate against so much bureaucracy. Currently, our tool does a lot but not in a simple way. With new improvements, we are scaling everything back to make our advisors’ lives easier. 

Another big takeaway is the idea that cross collaboration among diverse thinkers and people is truly the way to solve big problems. When we work in silos, it’s an echo chamber. When you hear from another person, in another country, or with a different experience, it brings up a lot that hasn’t come up before. Giving people ownership helped reinvigorate a sense that there is a lot of power and capacity in the human brain – especially when we provide safe spaces. Now I have a solution for this design, but that’s because of our collaboration. I wouldn’t have been able to do this alone. It’s a big reminder that community always needs to be at the center of our work. 

Communal work is of critical importance to so many things. I think that we hit the biggest goal which was to make sure that the design sprint team felt heard, empowered, and seen. I wanted the team to feel this was a good use of their time. Some feedback I got from folks was that this space equalized all of us and our voices.

Melissa: What improvements will come to DecidED now that you have completed this particular sprint?

Jeanmarie: Lots! We already built a prototype and tested it with a long-time DecidED user. This particular educator commented that the improvements are lightyears ahead of our current dashboard. As a former educator, I keep in mind that when we design products we also need to teach users how to use this new product. I was happy to hear that this educator felt the improvements aligned seamlessly into his current work flow; it didn’t create extra steps, and it improved his work experience.

Our improvements will lead to clear, actionable steps that educators can take with students. We know the new way the tool will look will make this seamless and will help advisors in the long run.

Melissa: Very exciting that the improvements are already well received. We look forward to launching the new and improved dashboard soon! 

Interested in learning more about design sprints? Check out our resources below.

What’s a design sprint and why is it important?

The Design Sprint

And learn more about Jeanmarie and the rest of our team by visiting our Team & Board page. 

Statement on SCOTUS Decision Overturning Roe

Moneythink is dismayed and deeply saddened by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. This June 24th decision drastically strips away constitutional rights to basic healthcare, including reproductive care,  which has been a center point of US citizenship, economic power, and security for nearly fifty years. Since the Court’s ruling we have already seen a number of states enacting triggers banning abortions altogether. Sadly, we expect to see many more states taking similar actions. In the longer term, this ruling has severe, far-reaching consequences for a number of other communities, including LGBTQIA+.      

We are forced, once again, to recognize and name that gender, generational poverty, access to quality education, access to quality healthcare, access to affordable housing, and intergenerational wealth are inextricably linked. Historically marginalized individuals and low-wealth communities shoulder the heaviest burdens in our country. Overall, these communities will experience the most disastrous impacts of this Court’s decision. While the myth of the unlikely connection between student debt and reproductive justice may exist, make no mistake that both student debt and abortion restrictions obstruct current and future generations’ chance at a financially secure future. For example, student loan debt and reproductive healthcare restrictions disproportionately harm young individuals of color, especially Black women. It’s well known that the national student debt crisis burdens Black women more than their white peers, limiting their ability to build generational wealth. Furthermore, the racialized gender wage gap forces Black women to carry student loan debt for longer periods of time, and the gap increases throughout their careers, making it harder to pay off student loans. Student loan debt continues to mount as individuals progress through their adulthood. As a consequence, those who are denied abortion care and forced to carry the pregnancy to term have greater odds of living below the Federal Poverty Level. The real burden of student debt and abortion restrictions can easily compound on each other – and facing the financial consequences of each is devastating. Individuals should have the basic freedom to make decisions about their futures, the freedom to decide if and when to parent, and the freedom to control their economic well-being. While it might be easier for us to see reproductive choice as separate from our mission, the reality is that basic healthcare is a social justice issue. We cannot have one without the other. 

There’s nothing that we can say that eases the sting, nor is there a magic wand that we can wave to rewind several days. However, remaining silent or doing nothing are not options. SCOTUS’s ruling will have immediate and devastating implications for members of our team, our partner organizations, and our communities. As an organization committed to social justice for all, it’s our moral obligation and societal responsibility to stand firm in our position that all people have the right to bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom. 

I am encouraging our team to take the time and space needed to process this profound shift. Likewise, in the coming weeks and months, we will assess what we can tangibly do to ensure that our team members have access to essential medical services, which is critical to ensuring the well-being of our organization.

Our vision is focused on financial freedom, social capital, and an inclusive economy for all. This is not exclusive to students. Rather, we aim for a world that affords all people the resources and dignity to live their healthiest, fullest lives. 

In community,

Josh Lachs

Reducing Income and Wealth Inequality: How Moneythink Supports All Students

The road to a college degree is precarious for many, especially for students who do not have access to support systems or guidance throughout the application process. Moneythink addresses and solves these gaps. Our organization was founded by and for students through student-driven grassroots movements. That’s why we are uniquely poised to empower students on their college journey. We have firsthand knowledge and experience thanks to the incredible students who founded our organization, and we continue to center diverse and ever-changing student needs in everything we do. 

Challenges Students Face

Our students come from unique backgrounds. They are aspiring, imaginative, gifted, creative, and powerful, but many are denied access to necessary systems, support and crucial information during the college process. Roadblocks include confusion around financial aid, lack of personal support, a confusing application process, and more. 

These roadblocks lead directly to missed opportunities, increased student loan debt, and put students in cycles where they cannot thrive or obtain true economic mobility. Our organization’s mission is to remove as many barriers as possible in the way of students’ success at this stage of their life journey. We directly address the gaps that students may fall through, and tackle head on the interrelated and complex issues of college affordability, student success, and loan debt. 

How Does Wealth Inequality Impact Students?

We can’t talk about social justice without naming the wealth inequality many of our students face. For students who already lack resources, cycles of income inequality affect them disproportionately compared to students with simultaneous access to resources and access to wealth. Often, access to wealth correlates with access to important resources and support systems. 

Take this startling statistic: a lower-income but high-performing student has less of a chance of graduating college than a high-income lower-performing student. Much of this disparity exists because wealthier students have access to resources and support than lower-income students do. For instance, wealthier students are often placed in better resourced school districts, complete with financial literacy coaching, college counselors, standardized testing preparation, and family support. 

The chasms of wealth are becoming more prominent in our country and it’s clear that the obstacles many students face are not individually created, but systematically imposed. As our organization grows, we are adapting our work to reflect and address this reality.

How Our Work Has Evolved With Students at the Center 

From our inception, we’ve kept students at the forefront of everything we do. Throughout all of our iterations – from our financial mentorship programs to virtual coaching to the creation of our free, college cost comparison tool, DecidED in 2020 – we have pivoted to meet student needs. 

While our initial mentorship and virtual coaching programs focused a lot on teaching students how to manage college related finances, we’ve realized that the issues many students face go far beyond what any individual alone can fix. DecidED is such an important leap in our work because our tool allows us to reach more students across the country, anytime, anywhere, while providing support, and the free, crucial and transparent information they need to attend college with the least amount of debt. DecidED is a game changer because the information our tool provides helps students make resourced and informed decisions. 

When students use DecidED, they upload financial aid award letters, and compare colleges based on both financial information and other important fit factors, like majors, graduation rates, and more. Advisors can also use DecidED to keep in touch with students and provide further support. However, we designed DecidED so that students could navigate the college application process on their own, especially if they come from under-resourced situations. 

If students are able to make a fully informed decisions, they are able to reduce the amount of debt they take on to finance school, and are able to utilize their degree in ways that help build wealth and stability.

Students Benefit From Our Work 

Addressing college affordability remains at the heart of our work because we understand the crucial importance of obtaining a college degree. A degree can help lift students and their communities out of poverty, particularly if graduates do not need to worry about exorbitant loan repayments or debt. 

One of our recent alums, a student from Pittsburg High School, says of college affordability: “If we are going to be honest, finances play a big role in choosing where you go whether you like it or not. Being able to afford college is what we need.”

Our work has helped over 33,000 students afford college across the country since 2008. These successes speak for themselves. As of 2018, our students have received over $2.4 million in financial aid, with 82% of Moneythink students completing their FAFSA (compared to the 55% national average). Over 80% of our students created a responsible financial plan to pay for college and ended up graduating from one of Moneythink’s recommended affordable schools. 

With recent improvements to DecidED, we have pivoted focus on helping students quickly and easily understand college affordability criteria, so they can make fully informed decisions faster than ever before. The affordability rankings within our tool also match recommendations from reputable college access organizations. 

Thanks to these usability improvements, students are more engaged with DecidED. Over 98% of student users utilized DecidED beyond the sign up stage, by uploading award letters, adding schools to their list, and comparing colleges. Although many of our student users are based in California, we have also expanded outreach all across the country, with highest engagement coming from students in Massachusetts, New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Maryland.

And most important of all, over 57% of DecidED users selected an affordable college.

You Can Support Students, Too. Here’s How.

Our work wouldn’t be possible without supporters like you. In order to maximize our impact and outreach, spread the word about Moneythink to your friends, families, networks and communities. If you know a student on their college journey who is in need of financial aid information or support, encourage them to sign up for DecidED. (It’s free!) And if you’re able, consider donating to Moneythink. With your help, our work can reach more and more students, and provide game changing resources to those who need it the most.

The DecidED API: Learn About the Newest Way to Bring DecidED into Your Work

DecidED, the free college cost comparison tool developed by Moneythink, empowers students, advisors, and college access partners. We designed DecidED as a resource to translate complex financial aid award letters, provide guidance with comparing college costs and other fit factors, and much more. 

With our tool, students make sense of financial aid award results, and compare their college options based on personalized fit factors such as graduation rates and campus diversity. Advisors use DecidED in multiple ways to elevate their work; for instance, they can access the DecidED dashboard with real time student updates, students’ financial aid results and help students compare options for the best enrollment decision. Our partners gain crucial insights into student progress on the path to college, as well as financial aid data to inform their impactful programs and services. 

With DecidED, we are leveling the playing field for students, advisors and college access partners. That’s why we are excited to announce the crucial upgrade in our offerings. In addition to our free student and advisor-facing web tools, Moneythink is expanding DecidED’s reach and impact to strategic partners through our DecidED API.

What’s an API?

APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, are a software middle ground that helps two different programs talk to each other. Think of APIs like a messenger: delivering your request to a provider and then bringing a response back. 

The DecidED API leverages our unique financial aid award letter scanning technology to ease the caseload burden of advising organizations. Our API provides more holistic, engaging student support in real time along with customized data, all integrated into any organization’s applications and services. 

The DecidED API has been an invaluable resource for us. Jin Choi, Director of Scholarships Programs at 10,000 Degrees

Who is the DecidED API for?

Two African American students with backpacks standing next to each other talking outside of a college campus building.

Our API is designed with two users in mind:

  1. College access organizations and scholarship providers that need to interpret and/or analyze a collection of student financial aid results, and
  2. Organizations that want to view, track and compare award results across schools, cities or states and against other key student profile identifiers.

Our partner organizations put an overwhelming amount of work into supporting as many students as possible. We created our API to automate the complex but easily repeatable task of financial aid award letter translation and unlock more high-touch support from student-facing organizations. Our API takes in complex award letters and sends data back in ways that can be used to benefit students and organizations the most.

How does the API work?

Two men. One is seated and wears white rimmed glasses. The other is standing next to him. He is wearing a blue shirt. Both are looking at a laptop.

Understanding the actual costs of attendance for each institution no longer requires an advisor to review and analyze every individual letter. The DecidED API seamlessly translates award information so an organization’s staff can avoid manually inputting data and performing other time-consuming tasks. Our API takes financial aid award letters and other data and quickly extracts important information that organizations need to do their work. Then, our API relays that data into an organization’s existing programs and systems.

Our API can also:

  • Receive an award letter and respond with instantaneous clean and structured data
  • Easily share data with students and/or integrate data into proprietary applications and services
  • Provide more holistic, engaging student support in real time with customized data at hand
  • Clarify college finances by receiving personalized cost estimates before students enroll in a school to help inform their decisions. 

For more information on how we’ve architected the DecidED API backend, read our article on helping students find affordable colleges on the AWS Public Sector blog.

The DecidED API in Action

A group of people talking around a table, with a woman with short curly hair and black glasses highlighted on the righthand side. She faces the camera with arms crossed and smiles.

We’ve already piloted our API with scholarship providers and college access organizations looking to save time on administrative tasks so they can better support students.

Jin Choi, the Director of Scholarships Programs at 10,000 Degrees says, “The DecidED API has been an invaluable resource for us in the collection and analysis of over 1,700 financial aid award letters. The API took what used to be a very manual process and changed it into an automated system that has saved us hundreds of hours.”

With our API, 10,000 Degrees saved an estimated 3.5 minutes per award letter. This meant their advisors saved over 100 hours of manual input time, freeing up precious hours to focus on their students. 61% of award letters were translated in less than half an hour. These translated results allowed 10,000 Degrees to better hone in financial aid gaps of direct college costs and scholarships, create lists of students to follow up with on the financial aid process, and review data to identify different types of award letters, all within one tool.

Organizations save time on administrative tasks, like manually reviewing financial aid award data. They can make data-driven decisions and most importantly, can scale impact across current programs and systems. 

How can you bring the DecidED API to your organization? 

Connect with us to learn how the DecidED API could help your organization. Are you interested in trying our API for yourself? Send us an inquiry at and we’ll get back to you within two business days. 

And if you haven’t already done so, be sure to sign up for a free DecidED account today.

Our Next Phase of Growth

Moneythink announced today that Joshua Lachs has been named the new Chief Executive Officer of the organization.

Josh brings extensive experience in the nonprofit, social enterprise, and higher education sectors to Moneythink. His history of leading comprehensive strategic development as well as revenue, program, and external relations growth will be instrumental in guiding Moneythink through its next phase of development and scale.

“Since our founding in 2008, Moneythink has pioneered award-winning technology solutions to bring financial guidance to its students, and today the organization is perfectly poised to scale its impact,” said Board Chairman, Greg Nance. “Josh’s catalytic leadership as CEO will enable millions of young people to overcome financial barriers to college success. We are confident Josh has the creative insight, operational acumen, executive experience, and core values to lead our pioneering, mission-driven organization into a defining new era.”

About Josh

Josh comes to Moneythink from the internationally-reaching organization, Net Impact, where he served as Chief Business Development Officer. Previous to that, he was the CEO at Breakthrough Collaborative, an award-winning, national college access organization with the country’s largest pre-residency program for aspiring educators. While at Breakthrough, his team lead the development of a new organization-wide strategy and brand refresh, secured the organization’s largest multi-year grant, and increased its service outreach by 60%. Josh also previously served as Chief Officer of Workforce Development & Community Engagement for Goodwill Industries of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin, a nationally reputed $42M regional job training enterprise. At Goodwill, he led a robust portfolio of publicly and privately funded teen- and adult-centered job-readiness programs, including San Francisco City’s One Stop Center. Prior to that, Josh enjoyed a lengthy career as a university dean and executive director scaling programs, diversifying revenue streams, and growing partnerships for globally-facing campuses.

Among Josh’s proudest accomplishments was the creation of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership at JFKU, which has since helped establish hundreds of enterprises generate more than $1B in total revenue while creating more than 4,000 jobs.

“I am absolutely humbled, honored, and energized to join Moneythink and to build on the organization’s bold vision.” said Josh. “The entire organization is so impressive — the Board and the team — underscored by their shared values, commitment to Moneythink’s mission and its students, and entrepreneurial zeal. As a first-generation college student, myself, Moneythink deeply resonates with me. With this team in place, we are well positioned to dramatically increase the number of students it serves and the communities it empowers, along with being a trusted partner in the broader college success ecosystem. It’s a privilege to be chosen to succeed Ted and lead Moneythink into its second decade. We are excited to build on our track record and create even greater reach and impact!”

A Career of Service

Josh has been active in his community throughout his entire career. 

He has served on a multitude of nonprofit boards and institutional committees, as well as frequently consulted for social impact organizations in the areas of strategic planning, resource development, program scale, and operations. Josh earned his B.A. from UC Berkeley and holds two masters degrees from Columbia University. He and his wife, Samantha, live in Berkeley, CA raising their two young sons, both of whom attend the local public schools.

Josh succeeds founding CEO, Ted Gonder, who led the organization from its establishment in 2008 at the University of Chicago as a student volunteer initiative to its growth as a nationally recognized college access nonprofit organization.

Under Ted’s leadership, Moneythink was awarded the White House Champions of Change award by President Obama, and since its founding has brought free financial education to over 15,000 young people in 30 cities across the country. Along the way, Moneythink has been recognized as a pioneer in the development of technology solutions, and today, the organization is primed to scale its impact.

Of the transition, Ted said, “It has been an honor and privilege to serve as Moneythink’s founding CEO for the last 10 years. I have been able to watch it change and develop into something so much more than we ever imagined when we dreamt up this vision in our college dorm. We’ve reached a stage of development that is well-suited for a seasoned nonprofit executive, and I couldn’t think of anyone better suited for this task than our new CEO, Josh Lachs. I’m excited to use my role on the board of directors to support Josh’s leadership and continue guiding the organization toward its vision of an equitable future for all students.”

Josh’s appointment is a reflection of Moneythink’s incredible growth over the last two years and its current state of innovation. Moneythink is extremely grateful for Ted’s leadership and are excited for him to continue to serve as an advisor on the Board of Directors.

Read Ted’s farewell letter on his personal Medium page here. And read and share our Newswire press release here.

Be a part of the solution by making a donation, referring a partner, or becoming a corporate contributor.

Employee Voices Series: Liz Pattermann on Equitable Education

By Liz Pattermann

When I was a teenager, I learned that equitable education access was one of the hallmarks of living in a just world.

In the years since then, I’ve realized that I really do want to live in a just world; and, as some of the veils of my naivety have fallen away, I’ve decided I’ll settle for as close to a just world as we can intentionally create. So while I’m not sure that we’ll ever achieve world peace, or climate stability, or completely equitable access to education, I do believe that these are goals worth actionably moving toward. Luckily, right now I have the immense privilege of working at Moneythink in the space of creating more equitable access to postsecondary education for young Americans as they come of age.

Making Equitable Education Access a Reality

A decade ago, as the threshold of my own high school graduation was approaching, I didn’t know a thing about how you decide what to do with the rest of your life.

Although I don’t believe there is a single, ultimate way to approach this question, I had the fortune of having my values, aptitudes, and interests analyzed by professionals who guided me into a major of Computer Science, which wound up fitting me very well. These experts told me that a C.S. career might not be able to fulfill all the values I held, however; and so I may need to seek out volunteer opportunities to satisfy those cravings.

Before Moneythink, that was true: I’d had to go out of my way to find places and spaces to volunteer, and to try and create a workplace culture where the setting aside of concerns for self-interest was a normal, if irregular, act.

Nowadays, at Moneythink, even though a lot of my daily Engineering tasks may sound quite far removed from the work of creating a more just world, I am able to get that internal yearning to “help others” fed continuously.


I’m still able to exercise my aptitudes and explore my interests; and, with this wonderful team, these desiderata happen within the context of our shared, common values.

Moneythink’s Work

The work that we at Moneythink do is in service of our mission: the projects we pour resources into are for our students, and so we find no value in clinging to any ego-laden detritus which our students find no value in. We believe in high standards, all-encompassing diversity, positivity, creativity, and an evidence-based approach to transformation. Only in this way can we promote equitable education access for all.

Our work, along with our approach to it, is premised on the notion that transformation is possible: that we can engage in acts that alter the composition and the norms of our shared, common world; that together, we can create the more just world we want to live in.

I am still quite young, and perhaps that is why I am hopeful yet. I see us all as brimming with irrepressible human potential. I see all the ways in which we can pour our time, energy, and attention into “better”, rather than merely allowing our life force to trickle towards a self-interested “more”. I see how, through a shared, common devotion to the greater good of this next generation, we can swell the rising tide to lift more ships. And so for now, I am glad to be working with the people that I am, in the way that I am, in the space that I am, working to create a world more just than it was the day before.

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