Scholarship app Scholly recently made a big announcement: Education lender SLM Corp, better known as Sallie Mae, is acquiring its key assets for an undisclosed amount. That includes Scholly’s app, scholarship administration technology and Scholly Offers, a platform that matches users with strategic partners to help them earn cash back.
“This will allow us to do what it would have required my raising tens of millions of dollars to do on my own,” says Scholly founder Christopher Gray.
Launched about eight years ago, Scholly matches students looking for private scholarship money with likely scholarships, helping them earn more than $100 million in financial aid so far, according to the company. The app also includes such features as an AI-powered proofreader.
The Ability to Scale
For Gray, the acquisition will provide the ability to expand the business. In addition, Sallie Mae will make Scholly, which used to cost $2.99 a month, free for all users. “Our priority is creating more scholarship opportunities,” says Gray. “Imagine all the partnerships we’ve done—We’re just going to continue that on steroids.”
In recent years, Scholly has formed a variety of partnerships with everyone from Amazon to rapper Lil Nas X. In 2022, for example, it teamed up with Google to create a $10,000 scholarship for women from marginalized communities of color in tech. Earlier that year, the company joined forces with entrepreneur and author Bryce Thompson to offer Thompson’s second $100,000 scholarship—10 $10,000 awards given to 10 students.
Users can search the app for scholarships using multiple parameters, such as state, GPA and major. They then get a description of the scholarship, how much money is given away and the deadline for applying, among other information.
For Sallie Mae, the acquisition is part of an effort to position itself as what Donna Vieira, executive vice president and chief commercial officer calls, “an education solutions company.” “It’s very aligned with our mission,” she says. The move follows Sallie Mae’s acquisition of the assets of education technology firm Nitro College in 2022. Scholly will be part of Sallie Mae’s education line of business, which says Vieira, “is focused on producing products and tools and content to engage students and families on this journey to and through higher education.”
The son of a struggling single mother, Gray couldn’t afford to attend college. So, he decided to apply for private scholarships to college, eventually earning $1.3 million in awards from such places as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. He attended Drexel University, studying finance and entrepreneurship, and, while there, decided not to waste all the scholarship acumen he’d developed. So he created an app that would help other students looking for aid.