On Jan. 23, the University of Utah announced the launch of Invest in U, a pilot program designed to do exactly what it sounds like. While University of Utah boasts a lower average debt at graduation than any other higher education institution in Utah, by no means is college as affordable as it could be for many U students.
“There are really two unique aspects of the program,” said Courtney McBeth, special assistant to the president and project director. “The whole goal of the program is to help more students graduate and to help them graduate in a timely manner. Many students do not want to take out loans, and so they end up starting and stopping throughout college which prolongs their time to completion. We also aim to educate students on how that actually ends up costing them more over time, and help accelerate their time to completion.”
Through Invest in U, U students will now have the option to sign up for an income share agreement (ISA), a financial aid tool meant to address financial barriers that may lead to students not finishing their degrees in time or dropping out.
According to McBeth, “Right now when students are looking at their financial aid, they essentially have three options; scholarships, loans and/or work study or part-time employment. This program is adding an additional tool to the toolkit to help them pay for school.”
The U developed its ISA program over the past year with help from the U’s Sorenson Impact Center as well as university leaders and students.
If you are a student in one of these eighteen selected majors and are within one year of graduating, you may be eligible for the Invest in U pilot program.
“In the pilot program we were only able to include eighteen majors, but once we prove that this program works, we will be able to get more funding and expand this program to more degrees. The ultimate goal is to make this program available to all degrees,” said Sheva Mozafari, a junior and the lead presidential intern.
McBeth added, “We purposely selected majors from across campus and nine different schools and colleges to make sure we touched on lots of different areas.”
“As of right now it is a six million dollar fund, which with a five year pilot program, depending on how much students take out, will be able to resach between 1,000 and 2,000 students,” said McBeth. “When students are paying their ISAs, the money is going into the Invest in U fund which is going to fund future students. This is a perpetual fund that will continue to help students in the future.”
After pulling out his financial calculator and crunching some numbers, Kase Hodgson, a junior majoring in quantitative analysis of markets and organizations commented, “It appears that this program is well designed to provide necessary resources to students in a way that is easier to use and repay than traditional methods and will continue to help future students receive the money that they need on a case by case basis.”
“Through Invest in U, the University of Utah is investing in our students to help them succeed, recognizing that many students start and stop their educations based on finances,” said President Ruth Watkins in a statement released by the U. “This is a way for the university, our donors and our investor community to say, ‘We trust you. We have faith in your future. We are supporting you.’ I’m really grateful to the donors and investors who are helping us fill funding gaps so more students can complete their degrees.”
Sophomore biomedical engineering student Tobi Yoon said, “I find this program exciting because something like this would put a lot less financial burden on my family.”
The U is excited to offer this program to students, especially as it is the first major university in the Western region to offer its students this type of financial assistance.