Scholarship Platform Scales to Provide Millions in Education Scholarships

Empower Illinois is a statewide Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO) created in 2017 to serve Illinois children through the state’s tax credit scholarship program. Illinois passed its tax credit scholarship program to benefit children whose educational options are limited by household income. Empower’s mission is to expand quality education options for low-income and working-class families of Illinois. Empower has already awarded tens of thousands of private school scholarships to underprivileged youth.

The Challenge

Empower wanted to use technology to efficiently accept and process thousands of applications each year, while abiding by the complex requirements of the Illinois’ Invest in Kids Act. 

With the program starting in 2017, Empower had a short amount of time to set up its operations. It needed to work quickly to get its technical infrastructure up and running. Empower needed a website explaining the program, an online process for handling donations, and a system to accept a large volume of scholarship applications.

A Difficult Start

In the first year of the program, Empower relied on a third-party vendor to accept its scholarship applications. Minutes after the application went live, the third-party site crashed due to a massive influx of traffic. Thousands of families were left staring at error screens, as they waited to see if their child would receive a scholarship. 

Without a way to accept applications, Empower turned to LaunchPad Lab to develop a custom solution that could handle over 100,000 applications per minute. LaunchPad’s developers were able to engineer a highly scalable solution using Amazon Web Services (AWS). LaunchPad relied on Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) and Amazon CloudFront to architect the platform to handle extremely large bursts of traffic.

Within two weeks, LaunchPad developed and launched a new scholarship application. The new application scaled to flawlessly accept every application that was submitted on a first come, first served basis.

Developing A Complete Technology Platform

After the successful execution of the new scholarship application site, Empower partnered with LaunchPad Lab to develop EmpowerXChange, a complete tax credit scholarship technology platform. 

The EmpowerXChange platform automates scholarship applications, donations, scholarship awards, and scholarship funding. EmpowerXChange enabled Empower to make awards in minutes rather than weeks.

Working with Empower, Launchpad Lab mapped out every step in the scholarship process, noting where users could save time, eliminate confusion, and collect the most pertinent information. LaunchPad’s designers outlined user flows for each piece of the platform. 

EmpowerXChange provides the most useful and timely information for partner schools and families. 

Schools are able to view important data such as donations, applicants, and awarded scholarships. This allows schools to better manage their end-to-end scholarship process. Schools can also confirm awards and student attendance from the same platform, ensuring they receive funds on time. 

Most importantly, families are able to track their application through the entire scholarship process. They are promptly alerted when their scholarship has been awarded and funded.

Empower Illinois - Responsive

Results

In just two years, Empower Illinois has processed over $50 million-dollars in donations and awarded over 10,000 scholarships to low-income and working-class families of Illinois.

With the EmpowerXChange platform, Empower Illinois has become a model for organizations looking to efficiently manage state scholarship programs.

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