Stevens Center unveils app made for teens, by teens

For over a year, 35 high school students who are interns at the Center developed an app that helps college-bound adolescents calculate the cost of higher education.

There are plenty of apps that can calculate college loan debt, but a new one from Wharton’s Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance is different right down to its digital DNA. Its X-factor is this: The app is built by high school students, for high school students.

High school senior Robert King uses a laptop at the Stevens Center.
Robert King, a Big Picture High School student, utilizes the Stevens Center Program as his internship placement for course credit. (Image: James Blocker, Shira Yudkoff Photography)

After working with Wharton students, school faculty, staff, and professional partners for more than a year, about 35 juniors and seniors who are interns at the Center developed an app that helps college-bound adolescents—just like them—figure out the real costs of higher education. From researching the inputs to writing code to designing the interface for the free app, it is the Center’s teenage students who put in the work, and the app is slated to launch in early 2024.

“I thought it would be a summer internship with a project, but then I realized this is big. We’re making a difference,” says Nancy Li. Li’s relationship with Wharton and the Center began back in high school when she was still enrolled in Philadelphia’s Central High and interned on the Center’s Research Team. Now, Li is a first-year student at Wharton. “Our goal is to make an app that shows students how college loans can affect them years into the future. The biggest thing I learned is that you’re never too young to make an impact,” Li adds.

The app helps users gauge the net benefit of student loans by simulating their journeys toward their goals through the risks that await them. Users see the financial realities of their goals—tuition, rent, income—as well as the financial impacts of real-world risks such as not finishing the degree or not getting the high-paying job they want. They also see how the federal government softens the blow of these risks through its repayment programs. The simulations build in the probabilities of the risks based on data gathered from previous borrowers. By incorporating all this real-world experience, the simulations show both the risk and reward of a loan, allowing users to make the borrowing decisions that suit them best.

This story is by Angie Basiouny. Read more at Wharton Stories.