Why Prodigy Finance is crowdfunding postgraduate loans

By Kitty Knowles 4 September 2017

Democratising the postgraduate degree.

Student loans are far from perfect: in the UK, three-quarters of graduates will never repay them, while in the US the economic burden is so great would-be students are often put off altogether.

For those looking to complete post-graduate courses, the situation is even more dire.

Whether you apply largely comes down to whether your family has money or not. Or whether you qualify for a bank loan. Even if you do, the stakes are incredibly high.

That means, for most people, achieving the highest level of education is simply not an option.

Prodigy Finance wants to change this.

“Funding shouldn’t be a barrier to education,” founder Cameron Stevens tells The Memo.

“We want to democratise access to further education and build a network of people committed to this end.”

Investing in the future

Founded in 2007, Prodigy Finance acts as a borderless loans company that enables anyone, anywhere in the world, to access postgraduate education outside of their home country.

Unlike traditional loans, these students are collectively funded by a community of investors who choose a particular country or school to support.

“Our investors are often alumni, graduates of postgraduate degrees who want to invest their money to ensure that others have the chance to avail of the same opportunity that they did,” says Stevens.

“Or they are high net worth individuals, family offices, private investors and institutional investors.”

Students, in turn, get to study at some of the best universities in the world, including Harvard and Stanford in the US, Oxford and Cambridge in the UK, and the National University of Singapore and the University of Hong Kong in Asia.

(Prodigy Finance works with 189 schools across 17 different countries).

To date, the company has issued loans of more than $325m (£250m) to over 7,100 students of 118 nationalities, who gain access to ambassadors, on-campus help and mentoring.

“For many students this is the only option since they don’t have local options in their home country or the country where they are studying,” says Stevens.

“More than half are the first in their family generation to attend university for postgraduate study.”

Applying is a doddle

With its global reach it’grs been vital that Prodigy Finance is digitally savvy.

Students simply register and apply online, the team’s Credit Committee reviews how much you’d be able to pay back post-graduation – and you’ll get a response within five working days.

Any documents (passports, university admissions) can be uploaded digitally, and your final signature of the agreement is electronic, with funds going directly to your university.

Students pay back their loans with competitive interest rates (usually around 5-8.5% above Libor), with no requirement for a cosigner, collateral or guarantor.

If you want to be an investor, you simply complete a suitability questionnaire for the opportunity to invest a minimum of £10,000.

Bigger than individuals

With an aim to lend to 20,000 students by the end of 2018, Prodigy Finance is growing with a focus on countries such as China, Brazil and India.

“Going to a top university was life-changing and an opportunity that should be available to all, regardless of financial ability,” says Stevens.

“Our students dramatically improve their skills, knowledge, and networks, and eventually take those back home to aid their countries of origin.”

“The dream is that access to finance would not be a barrier to anyone seeking to achieve their full potential, regardless of where they live.”

Now that’s a dream we can get on board with.