Ask a Hero: How Do I Get an ISA If My School Doesn’t Offer One?

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Dear Student Loan Hero,

I’m hoping to avoid taking on more student loan debt for my graduate degree and have been hearing all the hype surrounding income-share agreements. Unfortunately, my school doesn’t seem to offer them. In this case, where can I find an income-share agreement?

Dear Student Loan Borrower,

For your peers who don’t know, an income share agreement (ISA) helps cover education costs today in exchange for a percentage of your earnings tomorrow — “tomorrow” meaning when you’ve graduated and have begun earning a sufficient income to begin repayment.

And, yes, it’s easiest to find ISAs directly from schools. Besides tuition-deferring coding schools, there are many universities offering a bachelor’s degree under an income-share agreement.

Unfortunately, the companies that implement these programs (Vemo, Goal Structured Solutions and Better Future Forward) or those that fund them for schools (Edly and Leif) don’t provide the income-share agreements directly to students.

That leaves students like you — attending a school without an income share agreement option on the table — with some homework to do. Like researching student loan companies and lenders for your undergraduate degree, you’ll now need to study up on independent income-share agreement providers.

In the future, states might be sources of government-funded agreements. California and Washington, for example, have proposed legislation for pilot income-share agreements.

But for now, only a few private companies provide ISAs directly to students — Blair, Lumni and Align are among them — although more are expected to join the competition. In fact, a company called Defyance even advertises student loan refinancing using an income-share agreement.

As you review these ISA providers, compare terms such as income threshold and repayment cap, just as you’d judge student loans by their interest rate and repayment term. By looking at the income share terms, you can help ensure you land with the company that fits your needs best.

If you’re unmoved by existing income share agreement providers, you could always take on the challenge of convincing your school to start its own program. Leif, for example, promises on its website that if you get your school on board, the company will help you pay off your existing education debt.

Of course, before signing an ISA, you’ll want to make sure the product itself is a better fit for you than student loans. Income-share agreements are a relatively new form of college financing and have come under fire for lack of regulation.

With this in mind, you could weigh the pros and cons, plus the alternatives, with some of the information in these reports:

Good luck in life and repayment,
Andrew P.
Student Loan Hero

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