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Income share agreements, or ISAs, offer money for college that you repay based on your future income. ISAs can make sense as an alternative to traditional student loans — if you can get one.
To get an income share agreement, you’ll need to do one of the following:
Attend a college that offers income share agreements as a funding option.
Enroll in a participating educational program, such as a coding bootcamp.
Qualify with one of the few private ISA lenders.
Eligibility does not depend on your credit score or current finances as it does when you apply for student loans. But you will need to meet the provider’s qualifications to get an ISA, which will likely include factors like your current year in school and projected future income.
Colleges that offer income share agreements
Colleges are the primary providers of ISAs, but these programs are still somewhat uncommon. Tonio DeSorrento, chief executive officer of Vemo Education, a company that sets up and manages ISAs, estimates that roughly 50 colleges have income share agreements.
Notable college ISA programs include:
Lewis Income Share Agreement. All undergraduate students at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, can apply for this program. You can receive up to a $10,000 tuition discount with a Lewis ISA. Income shares are based on the year in which you received funding, with the smallest percentages reserved for those closest to graduation.
Fund Sueños Income Share Agreement. Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, offers its ISA to students who aren’t able to receive federal financial aid, such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students. You can receive up to $3,000 annually.
How to get a college income share agreement: Ask your school’s financial aid office if it has an ISA program. If it does, find out your school’s specific eligibility criteria and application process. Apply early if you think an ISA is right for you — your school may have limited funding.
ISAs for bootcamps
Income share agreements are common among certain types of educational programs, such as coding bootcamps, that aren’t eligible for federal financial aid.
Bootcamp ISA terms can vary greatly. Pay close attention to yours to understand its overall costs.
For example, Lambda School’s income share agreement requires 17% of your income for 24 months. The ISAs for bootcamps from Flatiron School and Hack Reactor take less — 10% of your income — but for 48 months. Those would likely cost you more in the long run.
How to get a bootcamp income share agreement: It’s easy — the programs require you to use an ISA if you can’t otherwise cover the tuition. But there are additional ways to pay bootcamp costs, like scholarships and employer benefits, so explore all your options.
Private lenders that offer income share agreements
Only a few private companies provide income share agreements directly to students. These include Stride Funding, Avenify and Blair. Other private companies — such as Vemo — help colleges with their own ISAs, but do not lend to students.
Unlike other ISAs, you can usually use a private ISA at any school that accepts federal aid. But private ISAs may have stricter eligibility requirements and less favorable repayment terms than ISAs from a college. That’s because private providers may focus more on the return on their investment.
For example, Avenify offers ISAs only to nursing students who will graduate within the next 12 months. And Stride’s agreements can take up to 9.5% of your monthly income. Compare those features to Clarkson University’s ISA, which is open to all students and maxes out income shares at 6.2%.
How to get a private income share agreement. See if you’ll qualify with a private lender and apply directly on its website. Once the lender issues your contract, use an ISA calculator to estimate your potential costs before signing. Compare an ISA to student loans and other available financing options to make sure you get the best deal possible.