Skills Fund Review: Bootcamp Loans

Skills Fund provides loans to pay for approved coding bootcamps. The loans may also cover living expenses.

Cecilia ClarkJanuary 29, 2021
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Our Take

The bottom line: Skills Fund provides coding bootcamp loans to students attending approved programs. It’s best for students who have a strong credit history or a qualified co-signer.

Skills Fund Bootcamp Loan

Skills Fund Bootcamp Loan

Fixed APR

6.50 - 13.75%

Min. Credit Score

620

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Provides loans for living expenses.

  • You can see if you’ll qualify and what rate you’ll get without a hard credit check.

Cons

  • Loans with the deferred repayment option have a higher interest rate.

  • All loans have a 5% origination fee.

Full Review

Skills Fund is an online lender that offers loans to students who attend coding bootcamps. It was founded in 2015 and acquired by Goal Structured Solutions in 2019. Skills Fund is the sister company of Ascent student loans and is a founding member of the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting, or CIRR, a nonprofit that tracks graduation and job outcomes among coding bootcamps.

Coding bootcamp loans can help you cover the cost of your bootcamp education and may cover living expenses in the way that student loans do for traditional college. But coding bootcamp loans and student loans aren’t the same.

Traditional student loans — federal and private — aren't available for coding bootcamps.

Coding bootcamp loans are essentially personal loans designed for bootcamps. They don’t have all of the benefits of federal student loans, though they may be more easily discharged in bankruptcy.

Skills Fund offers co-signed loans and loans that do not require a co-signer. These loans are credit-based, so you or your co-signer will need to meet minimum credit requirements.

Most Skills Fund loans come with a three-month grace period and offer three repayment options: interest-only, immediate repayment and deferred repayment. Skills Fund also has a special loan option for students at Thinkful, a coding bootcamp owned by the ed tech company Chegg. With that program, students get a six-month job-finding forbearance with the option to extend for up to six more months if necessary. Skills Fund may partner with other schools for special loan options in the future.

Skills Fund determines which schools it will lend to based on its quality assurance process. It says this ensures it's lending to schools that deliver promising outcomes for students.

Skills Fund bootcamp loans at a glance

  • Generous grace period options compared with other bootcamp loans.

  • Multiple repayment options.

  • Borrowers must have strong credit or a creditworthy co-signer to qualify.

How Skills Fund could improve

  • Offer loans with no origination fee.

  • Develop a formal forbearance program.

  • Standardize the interest-rate range for all schools.

Skills Fund bootcamp loan details

  • Soft credit check to qualify and see what rate you’ll get: Yes.

  • Loan terms: 3 and 5 years.

  • Loan amounts: $2,000 minimum. Maximum depends on partner school.

  • Application or origination fee: 5% origination fee added to loan amount.

  • Prepayment penalty: No.

  • Late fees: Yes, but not specified.

Compare Skills Fund’s range of interest rates and list of partner schools with other coding bootcamp lenders. Your actual rate will depend on factors including your and your co-signer’s credit history and financial situation. To see what rate Skills Fund will offer you, apply on its website.

Financial

  • Minimum credit score: 620, but may be higher based on your school.

  • Minimum income: No income requirement.

  • Typical credit score of approved borrowers or co-signers: Did not disclose.

  • Typical income of approved borrowers: Did not disclose.

  • Maximum debt-to-income ratio: Did not disclose.

  • Can qualify if you’ve filed for bankruptcy: Did not disclose.

  • Can qualify if you’ve had an education loan default: No.

Other

  • Citizenship: Borrowers can be U.S. citizens, permanent residents, international or DACA students. International and DACA students must have an eligible U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. The same requirements apply to co-signers.

  • Location: Available to borrowers in all 50 states as long as you attend a partner school.

  • Must be enrolled half time or more: Part time and full time are eligible.

  • Types of schools served: Coding bootcamps that focus on development, data analytics, cybersecurity and other information technology specialties.

  • Percentage of borrowers who have a co-signer: Did not disclose.

  • Percentage of borrowers with bachelor's degree: Not available.

In-school repayment options

  • Interest-only: Make only interest payments while in school.

  • Immediate: Start full payments with interest and principal as soon as the loan is disbursed.

  • Deferred: No payment while in school and during grace period. Full interest and principal payment afterward.

Post-school repayment options

  • Grace period: Typically three months.

  • In-school deferment: No.

  • Military deferment: No.

  • Forbearance: No formal options, but may be available through the loan servicer.

  • Co-signer release available: No.

  • Death or disability discharge available: Yes.

  • Loan discharge if co-signer dies or becomes disabled: No.

  • Offers refinancing: No.

Repayment preferences

  • Allows greater-than-minimum payments via autopay: Yes.

  • Allows biweekly payments via autopay: Yes.

  • Loan servicer: Aspire for loans applied for before June 9, 2019; Launch for loans applied for on or after June 10, 2019.

  • In-house customer service team: Yes.

  • Process for escalating concerns: Yes.

  • Borrowers get assigned a dedicated banker, advisor or representative: No.

  • Average time from application to approval: Immediately for soft credit check and within 24 hours for final approval.

  • Completion percentage: 80% or higher.

  • Job placement rates: 80% or higher at six months post-graduation.

  • Average starting salary: Three times the cost of tuition or 50% increase in pre- to post-program salary.

  • Financial strength: Balance sheet and cash flow statement analysis.

  • Regulatory licensure: Confirmed annually.

0.25% interest-rate discount for autopay.

Before applying for a Skills Fund bootcamp loan

Consider a bootcamp’s job placement results, costs and length to determine if the coding bootcamp is worth it for you. Coding bootcamps are ineligible for federal financial aid, but there are other ways to reduce the amount you'll have to borrow. Exhaust these aid sources before applying for a loan:

  • Check with the bootcamp for scholarship opportunities.

  • Contact your state’s workforce development center and inquire about grants available for coding bootcamps.

  • If you have a job, consult your company’s human resources program for tuition assistance opportunities.

  • Military veterans should check their eligibility for the GI Bill or VET TEC program as these programs can cover the full cost of coding bootcamp.

After getting all the free aid you’re eligible for, consider a bootcamp loan to fill the gaps. Always use a bootcamp loan before turning to higher-cost financing options, like credit cards and high-interest personal loans.

Before you accept a Skills Fund bootcamp loan

If you're conditionally approved for a Skills Fund loan, review your offer and compare it with any income share agreement opportunity through your school to determine where you’ll get the better deal.

If you aren’t eligible for a Skills Fund bootcamp loan

If Skills Fund denies your loan application, the lender will let you know why. Depending on the reason, you may want to consider other lenders or, if you haven’t already, try applying with a co-signer.

Student loans ratings methodology

A coding bootcamp loan is not a student loan, as student loans are not available for bootcamps. Coding bootcamp students may have access to options other than loans for their bootcamp education. NerdWallet believes the best education lending product is one that costs you the least. That’s why NerdWallet’s ratings reward lenders that offer favorable loan terms, limit fees and penalties, and extend borrowers multiple options to avoid default. Points are also awarded for soft credit checks, underwriting transparency and other consumer-friendly features. Use these ratings as a guide, but we encourage you to shop around for the best deal you can qualify for. NerdWallet does not receive compensation for its reviews. Read our editorial guidelines.