Reduce the cost of education through innovative payments technology

Our focus

We started with 529 accounts because we believe 529 is a fantastic program that compounds real benefits for users, but the lack of digital payment infrastructure meant that it was being heavily underutilized (and often caused problems for student families). Savings in 529 accounts still only account for roughly a third of the total $1.8 trillion in savings in the US earmarked for higher education purposes. The delta often sits in average savings and checking accounts earning dismal returns, particularly when contrasted with the rate of tuition inflation.Read more about how we got here in Our story.

Our team

The Backpack team (or as we call ourselves, Backpackers) have lived, studied and worked around the world, including the US. We believe this gives us a unique advantage in that we have experienced first-hand different education systems across five continents (yes, our Founding Team has studied across the UK/Europe, Asia, Africa, USA and Australia). The thing that continues to surprise us the most is how expensive education is in the USA, and we are all extremely passionate about helping to change that!

Meet our leads below!

Callum
Founder & CEO
Darryn
Chief Operating Officer
Pete
Head of Engineering

Our strategy

We like to think of our products being the connective tissue (or glue) that brings the 529 ecosystem together. Our solutions work to connect 529 dollars with the providers of qualified education expenses like Universities, bookstores, housing providers and much more. Our collective goal is to close the gap between the $500bn in 529 assets and the $1.8trn in higher education savings in the US; a gap that will only close if the payment system becomes as easy to use as venmo or paypal.

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For Student Families
We have built a for purpose financial platform to help you manage 529 payments and admin, with the backing of Purchase Protection to keep you worry-free.
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For Universities
Our 529 payments platform replaces the need to deal with 529 physical checks and provides visibility into the money movement process to take your accounts receivable and reconciliation process from weeks and months to days.
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For 529 Program Managers & Record Keepers
Our APIs can significantly reduce the fixed overhead involved with sending physical checks, whether it is the cost of sending them themselves, the operations support required or the customer support staff to deal with constant inquiries and questions.
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For Tuition Portals and ERPs
Need a 529 solution? Backpack is able to integrate into your portal to allow for 529 payments leveraging your existing ACH money movement and reconciliation processes to bolster your platform for your clients.
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For Merchants
Unlock the $30 billion+ in annual 529 spend by leveraging our APIs to enable direct 529 payments. We also provide Purchase Protection to your customers. The result? Bigger cart sizes and better conversion.

Our story

Ever wonder why it is that education seems to be getting so much more expensive at such a faster rate than everything else? Well, so did we. So we started to look into it.

The one thing we saw that made no sense to us was that there was still so much (nay, too much) paper based, manual processes that contributed to excess costs. Whether it was sending and handling physical checks, filling out and mailing paper forms or requiring in-person or over the phone contact, we kept finding more and more waste that we believed could be solved with technology.

They say time is money, and if your physical check takes 4-5 weeks to get to your University and be processed, there is definitely money being wasted. We heard countless stories of physical checks being lost or taking too long, leading to expensive workarounds, late fees and even dropouts. The fact that the outcome of a persons education career was still being determined by administrative overhead seemed disastrous to us, so we decided to do something about it.

We started with 529 accounts because we believe 529 is a fantastic program that compounds real benefits for users, but the lack of digital payment infrastructure meant that it was being heavily underutilized (and often caused problems for student families). Savings in 529 accounts still only account for roughly a third of the total $1.8 trillion in savings in the US earmarked for higher education purposes. The delta often sits in average savings and checking accounts earning dismal returns, particularly when contrasted with the rate of tuition inflation.

Even those that were using 529 accounts weren’t utilizing them to their potential, afraid to use 529 funds for non-tuition expenses because of the hassle in tracking expenses and keeping receipts, as well as the threat of audits, back-taxes and penalties from the IRS as a result of non-compliance (or even just losing receipts!).

We are extremely excited to be building the first payments platform built specifically to help student families manage their 529 payments. We believe this will unlock the power of 529 for millions more families, reduce the administrative costs for the entire ecosystem and create a deflationary impact on education as a result.