Next Gen Personal Finance Announces Honorable Mention Winners in 2nd Annual PAYBACK Challenge

Jan 07, 2019
Paying for College

PALO ALTO, California, January 8, 2019 - Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF), a non-profit that believes that ALL students deserve access to an engaging and high quality personal finance education, is pleased to announce the Honorable Mention winners of their 2nd annual PAYBACK Challenge essay contest.

Over 800 students from all across the United States submitted essays earlier last fall. After playing the award-winning college finance game, PAYBACK, students wrote a 250-word essay answering one of these questions:

1) How has the PAYBACK game changed your perspective on the real-life decisions you will make when paying for college?

2) What steps can you take NOW in order to complete college with as little debt as possible?

Teachers nominated the best student essay from their classes. NGPF staff then reviewed the submitted essays, judging them based on the following criteria:

  • Provides a complete and clear answer to the question
  • Indicates an understanding of key concepts learned by playing the game PAYBACK
  • Articulates thoughts in a creative manner

Here’s the complete list of winners by state. Each of the Honorable Mention winners will receive a $500 award from NGPF to be used for educational purposes. NGPF will announce the PAYBACK Challenge National Grand Prize winners on Thursday, January 10th, 2019.

“Over 100,000 students played PAYBACK during the contest period,” noted NGPF Co-Founder, Tim Ranzetta. “It was great to see the impact this game had on students’ attitudes and actions as they decide on their educational path after high school. Thanks to the educators who brought PAYBACK to their classrooms and facilitated the amazing conversations that followed. With student debt at record levels, these conversations are more critical than ever."

Here’s how a few students explained what they learned after playing PAYBACK:

“Anything I can do to prepare myself for the massive debt I will incur in college. Nothing sounds more disheartening than spending years pulling myself out of a vortex of quicksand, where no matter how much I pay off, more and more debt still pulls me back under.”

"Before I played PAYBACK, I thought of college debt as a problem dealt with after college. However, now I have learned that there are steps to be taken even before college that will drastically reduce the debts I have later in my life.”

"I always used to assume that college was some untouchable monolith of an institution that was designed to chew you up and spit you out, penniless or worse. After paying the game, I now realize that there are far more options than just being stuck with debt for years following.”

PAYBACK received a Webby Award for best Social Impact game in 2017 and was recently featured in the New York Times. It is a free game available at

About Next Gen Personal Finance:
Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF), has become the "one-stop shop" for over 14,000 financial educators looking for high-quality, engaging curriculum to equip students with skills to thrive in their future. NGPF now reaches over fifty percent (50%) of U.S. high school students who attend a school where a teacher is using their curriculum. NGPF’s investment in teachers is evidenced by their “50 in 50” campaign to bring a one-day FinCamp to every state during the 2018-19 school year. NGPF has been recognized by Common Sense Education as a “Top Website for Teachers to Find Lesson Plans.”

PAYBACK Fast Facts:
Created by McKinney, a digital agency based in Durham, North Carolina, in collaboration with Next Gen Personal Finance

  • Featured in NY Times
  • Played by over 500,000 since launch in fall of 2017
  • Average play session: over 15 minutes

PAYBACK Graduation Rates

Completion Rate: 67% graduation rate with the following situations:

  • Healthy debt (43% of total players)
  • Graduate school (11%)
  • Too much debt (10%)
  • Low connections (3%)

PAYBACK Dropout Rate: 33%. Here were the main reasons:

  • Low focus (22% of total players)
  • Low happiness (8%)
  • Low connections (3%)

Media Contact:
Tim Ranzetta
Next Gen Personal Finance

About the Authors

Danielle Bautista

Danielle is a native of Southern California and a recent graduate from the University of Maine, where she braved the frigid winters—a feat in and of itself—and earned her Bachelor's degree in International Affairs. She has a passion for working with non-profit organizations and serving populations in underprivileged communities. When Danielle isn't writing NGPF blog posts, spearheading various outreach projects, or managing contests and flash surveys, you can find her doing some sort of outdoor activity, learning a new hobby, or cracking what she thinks are witty puns!

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.