Mira Maier is redefining Germany’s educational funding landscape by bringing transparency into the sector, making existing offers more efficient and opening new targeted funds and opportunities, in order to create a more robust system. This allows all people who are eligible to start and pursue a university degree to actually do so – a key to creating equal opportunities in education.
Mira Maier works towards a society – in Germany and beyond – in which no one is kept from pursuing the education he or she desires based on the lack of financial resources. Through her institution “Initiative für transparente Studienförderung (Initiative for transparent study-support – ItS)” she brings much needed transparency into the field and supports stakeholders in using existing offers of financial support. She also works with key partners to mobilize support for target groups whose needs are not yet met and creates standards and platforms, which lower the entry barriers of newcomers to the market of education support.
„She has already started programs for two student groups: handicapped students and migrants, who are underrepresented on university campuses and underserved by the scholarship system.“
Mira uses a multi-pronged approach. She began by creating Germany’s first comprehensive scholarship matching system “myStipendium.de” that she planned on scaling on an EU-wide level in late 2014. She then built a supporting partner system with high schools and universities to improve their financial aid counseling. Mira expanded her efforts by creating new scholarships with partners. Working with universities and schools, foundations and other funders, she has already started programs for two student groups: handicapped students and migrants, who are underrepresented on university campuses and underserved by the scholarship system. Simultaneously, she attracts new stakeholders to the field to become scholarship providers themselves, thus enlarging the market and creating new structures for financial aid. She is also working to raise public awareness for the unmet need for scholarship assistance as well as on the underutilization of available resources.
Through the above, Mira is challenging the common perception in Germany and many parts of Europe that scholarships should be reserved for a small minority of extraordinary achievers with significant needs and unique abilities.
Mira grew up in Africa and Asia to parents who were professionals working for Germany’s governmental overseas development assistance agency (then called GIZ). She realized early on in her childhood how socio-economic status, ethnicity and regional origin can determine opportunities for education. For instance, in her French high school in Hanoi, two thirds of her colleagues depended on scholarships.
As she pursued her university studies at the undergraduate level, Mira never thought she would ever be eligible for any kind of scholarship. Only when, after two years of management consulting, she started preparing for a PhD in mathematical health economics in 2009, did she start looking for scholarships. It suddenly struck her how insufficiently the current scholarship system works and how unjust its results are.
She set up her organization in June 2011, before the end of her PhD in December 2011. The daily stories of positive impact from her users, universities and grant makers have become so overwhelming that it became clear to her that this was much more her calling than research. She is now working full time for her initiative.