They’re trying to wade through all the complexities, to figure out: How much do I owe? When do I owe it? How much am I going to owe? What do I do if I can’t afford these payments?

Nicole Kendrot '09

Twenty-something app designers are hardly rare these days. But the mobile app concept Nicole Kendrot ’09 created did achieve singular status — as grand prize winner of 2012’s MyMoneyAppUp Challenge, a competition launched by the U.S. Treasury Department in partnership with the D2D Fund and Center for Financial Services Innovation.

The competition, which awarded Kendrot $10,000, sought mobile app ideas to help Americans make smarter financial choices.

The Bucknell art history grad won out over 100 other contestants (one of whom, classmate Eric Tyler ’09, was a runner-up with Moolah, his concept to empower low-income users with personalized financial information).

Kendrot, 27, living back in her hometown of Rochester, N.Y., and working remotely for a New York City-based user-experience design firm called Cloudberry Creative, says student loans interested her because they’re just so, well, complex.

“You have multiple accounts you’re dealing with,” she explained. “You may have multiple servicers, and you have private and federal loans. You have multiple due dates and multiple payments.”

It’s an issue that affects Kendrot personally, as she acknowledges loans of her own from undergrad and graduate school. And it’s an issue that many graduates across the country are facing, even as they work to land jobs.

“They’re trying to wade through all the complexities, to figure out: How much do I owe? When do I owe it? How much am I going to owe? What do I do if I can’t afford these payments?”

To help with these dilemmas, Kendrot mapped out Centz, her proposed student loan app, which lets student borrowers collect their loan information in one place and plan a strategy for paying off those debts. The app also provides resources for financial literacy and offers points and rewards for using those resources. She further built in sustainability, a competition requirement, via partnerships with banks and loan servicers seeking to advertise to young borrowers.

As a semifinalist and team of one, Kendrot pitched her idea to a judges panel in Washington, D.C., in 2012, beating out seven other teams.

“I was really excited,” she remembers. “It was a fun process for me since it’s what I do. I’m really proud of it.”

Today, Kendrot is still a user-experience designer helping financial services and health care company websites make their online experiences better. The $10,000 prize helped her make a dent in her own student loans. But most graduates aren’t as fortunate: young borrowers across the nation owe an average of $30,000.

Someday soon, Centz may be there to help.

Posted October 2014

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