Education was supposed to be a path to bring brilliant minds together for the collective good and to ensure upward mobility for disadvantaged people. Coming from Bangladesh for the PhD program, I had a great expectation in the US education system, a global hub for innovation and supposedly happiness. I inherited the aspirations of achieving a PhD degree from my father who did his PhD from the University of London in the early eighties in economics and played a great role in policy making at national and international levels, often working with major US based organizations. During the period of my doctoral study, my sister was doing a PhD in business in the UK. During my PhD journey in two different schools and one federal lab, I realized that the US education system is very different from the rest of the world. My path to graduation was not smooth, but my first job landed me at NASA. I was able to keep my funding in different ways, and finished my education without student loans.
Data from the US government show that in the last 10 years, the student debt has turned out to be a nightmare for many, especially low-income families, and turned into a major political issue in the USA. Being active in STEM and professional societies, I understand the need to reach out to people with the correct message, keeping their interests first. I wish to make sure that they don’t take hasty decisions on lifetime repayments of student loans. In the last few years, I voluntarily helped some graduate students and young professionals to plan their academic and professional planning in the Washington DC area. They were happy to get the insights I provided. That was all before the Covid-19 pandemic.
In early March 2020, Covid-19 closed many parts of the USA . We saw the worst economic downturn with the greatest public health crisis of our lifetime. Apart from the tanking of personal finance and corporate income, nonprofits had a hard hit operating mostly on donations. I support some non-profit organizations which bring values to our society and do humanitarian work. Slashing their funds means that it will hurt the under-served people. So, I gave an offer to a minority– run non-profit organizations that I will fund-raise by conducting a short course on education planning and career development to support the younger generation in avoiding or reducing student debt by taking the right strategy. My offer included that I will not take a single penny, and they will keep all the profits to offset the loss. I also contacted local churches and other places without any success to bring educational discussion.
After a certain period, I heard back from the nonprofit organization. Graciously, instead of fund-raising that non-profit also made my course free in online so that anyone can register from anywhere understanding the broader impact. When I started working on the presentation, I found that making a high-quality presentation on this topic is taking many hours beside my full-time stable day job. Then, I started thinking about how to make it more accessible to others. Meanwhile, I was following entrepreneur courses from a very credible source, and suddenly discovered that many entrepreneurial tendencies were embedded in my passion and ideas, which could be employed for the greater good. I might not meet Silicon Valley guru Paul Graham’s principle of 10% growth per week, or keep retention rates described by Sam Altman with my part-time effort. But I will be more than happy to keep it sustainable to make free presentations and video content for everyone. My investment of time can greatly benefit the people who can save many thousands of dollars and years of life by doing the right thing before it is too late. At first, I thought about the non-profit formation, but the complications of the whole process scared me off. Besides, there are operating costs involved in my endeavor, and most importantly, my valuable time. So, I had to re-calibrate my plans based on my unique situation.
I believe that every graduate in any field deserves a livable salary with a full-time job. So, I prefer to name it as Universal Graduate Income. Although we can’t change the system, I can help individuals, who can prosper in their career and academic degrees without getting hurt financially. For the masses, I will keep web content completely free, which will be balanced by individual paid consultation. And that’s the story of how I met my business: Universal Graduate Income.