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Maximizing Impact: Choosing the Right Technology and Marketplace for Your State's Education Program

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As states roll out education programs nationwide, they require robust technology and teams to carry these complex initiatives through the finish line. State legislatures know better than anyone that implementing these large programs demands strict timelines and specific guidelines that often vary from state to state. These administrative burdens make selecting the right provider mission-critical for a successful program launch, so state departments are turning to Merits for Education to do the heavy lifting. Our unique approach brings complex programs to life by setting up a digital platform, distributing funds accurately, recruiting service providers, raising awareness about the programs, and employing any other feature a state program may need. 

Let's begin by explaining how our platform contains a user-friendly marketplace of Qualified Education Service Providers, allowing families to access education resources more quickly.

Impactful Government Programs Requires User-friendly Technology

The overarching goal of these education programs is to allow children to access educational resources they may otherwise not receive, such as tutoring, school supplies, language lessons, and much more. While these programs have important goals, they risk being derailed or shut down if families cannot locate local service providers with whom to use their allocated funds. That’s where Merit steps in— with an easy, seamless, end-to-end program experience.  We champion each stakeholder involved: our goal is to ensure families take advantage of available resources, empower local vendors to reach new customers, and help state administrators by launching these programs without added time or cost.

We connect stakeholders within these direct-to-beneficiary programs by recruiting local Qualified Education Service Providers (QESPs) to participate in these ESA, microgrant, and tax credit programs.  Our platform provides an easy online application so qualified businesses can effortlessly participate and receive fund reimbursements. Another essential part of these programs is maintaining constituent engagement. When citizens are satisfied with a program, they’re happy with their government. In that spirit, we recognize that customer satisfaction is crucial to program effectiveness. Part of our platform enables parents to recommend local providers to the online education marketplace so that they have a network of providers that other families trust, too.  

We implemented our approach when we partnered with the Kansas Office of Recovery to launch the Kansas Education Enrichment Program (KEEP), a comprehensive microgrant program. The program provides eligible families with a one-time award of $1,000 per child to cover educational goods and services, like school supplies, tutoring, music lessons, and academic services. Families across all 105 counties in Kansas can access these critical resources through our online education marketplace. Instead of combing through hundreds of vendors, families have a curated view of pre-vetted providers participating in the area, with the ability to search and filter by category, location, and price. They can quickly gain reimbursement and sign up their children for these essential programs. An accessible marketplace means more families can access the resources they qualify for, and so they did; KEEP reached capacity in under 12 months and currently partners with over 250 QESPs. 

Tech and Teams That Connect Local Families and Businesses

The essence of these initiatives is enriching children's lives, and Kansas KEEP isn't the only grants and scholarship program in the U.S. dedicated to this meaningful work. Another example of state departments implementing education programs to enhance students' lives is the Ohio Afterschool Child Enrichment Program (ACE), administered by the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW).  Legislation passed the program to combat learning disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic by providing supplementary funds to students. Like Kansas KEEP, the Ohio ACE program was tasked with daunting timelines and project logistics, so DEW selected Merits for Education as their provider to set up the ESA program end-to-end.

The quality of these government programs is contingent upon several factors, including whether eligible families and QESPs are aware of the program and can access it on a readily available platform. Merit and DEW ran an entire marketing outreach campaign to ensure families and vendors across the state knew about the program, supported by multimedia promotion: radio ads, social media, cable TV news segments, and even on bus shelters and billboards. Merits for Education worked with DEW to recruit qualified vendors’ products and services to join the online education marketplace and link to families. Our joint efforts resulted in a prosperous network of more than 1,200 pre-verified vendors offering qualifying products and services, simplifying spending program funds for families who would not need to go through the claims process. Meanwhile, vendors experienced a similarly seamless experience by participating in the program with a platform that enabled them to accept, process, and collect payments from a network of program participants. 

How Merit Supports ESA Programs

Qualified providers in Ohio ACE have received tangible benefits from the program, some saying it helped their business recover during the pandemic and opened the door for future business. Now, parents have more opportunities to engage their children with stimulating after-school experiences: camps, activities, language lessons, etc. At the same time, local vendors are supported and empowered to grow their businesses and make a meaningful impact on their communities.  Both groups mention the ease of use of the online platform and add that the customer service with the platform makes the experience especially simple. With this powerful collaboration, DEW has allocated 125 million dollars in program funds to families and has enrolled more than 75,000 students. 

Looking Ahead When Administering Education Programs

As more states pass education programs into legislation, providers that can lessen their many administrative burdens are necessary. When choosing the technology and teams to manage these initiatives, state departments benefit from partnerships that can customize and pivot, no matter the project timeline or guidelines. Ready to learn more about how Merits for Education works to bridge the gap between families and accessing educational resources?


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