American Student Assistance

Reinventing financial literacy to RESONATE with young people

DSS designed a fresh new business model for our $500M-per-year organization. They developed an entire product ecosystem. They overhauled our communications strategy to truly reach our audience. They are hands-down the best consultants I’ve ever worked with – and I’ve worked with dozens and dozens in my career.
— Sue Nathan, Chief Operating Officer, American Student Assistance



Despite millions of dollars being invested every year, financial literacy programs are proven to be ineffective at driving long-term sustained behavioral change, particularly among young people. American Student Assistance (ASA), a non-profit that helps students repay their higher education loans had also struggled on this front. Debt continues to be rampant among college students and recent grads, and when paired with the increase in college tuition ... young people's future looks quite grim.



With 60 years in the student loan/financial literacy space, ASA had significant subject matter expertise, but very little understanding of what young people today find engaging. Like most organizations operating in the financial literacy space, they were stuck in the cycle of just telling young people what to do and not do; what to spend on and what not to spend on. We knew this framing was not going to resonate with young people today. We call it the Tator Tot Rule—don’t try and get me interested in nutrition by taking away my tator tots. That sucks! And it doesn’t work.

We developed a strategy that positioned ASA as an innovative organization, a force for change – not a mere financial education institution. And we created an ecosystem of products and programs that gave voice to the millions of young people struggling with student loans and provided them the tools and channels for them to take back financial control.



ASA now has a culture that encourages innovation and fosters change in this stale industry. And they have a multi-year blueprint to roll out new products and services that align with their new approach to engage young people to take charge of their financial debt.