U of U launches financing program to help students finish their degrees

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah announced Wednesday that it is launching a program to help students pay education-related costs to help them complete their degrees.

The pilot program, titled “Invest in U,” will offer students the option of an income share agreement, which would address financial barriers that would prevent a student from completing their degree and possibly lead to a student dropping out of college.

The program is available to students in 18 majors and who are within a year of graduating.

Eligible students may receive up to $10,000 per semester. Students participating in the program agree to pay a set percentage of income after graduation for a fixed period, depending on the student’s major and the amount of financial aid they received.

According to a press release from the university, this is a potentially less expensive loan option than what students might find elsewhere.

The program is funded donors, investors, and the university, with a budget of $6 million. The money students pay back after graduating will go back into the program, creating a perpetual fund.

University of Utah President Ruth Watkins said the school recognizes many students start and stop pursuing their degrees based on their finances, and this program is meant to offset students who never complete their degrees, either because they are forced to drop out or extend their school out of fear of debt.

“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,’” Watkins said. “I’m really grateful to the donors and investors who are helping us fill funding gaps so more students can complete their degrees.”

The University of Utah, according to the press release, is the first major Western university to offer this type of program to students. The program was developed over the past year, aided by the university’s Sorenson Impact Center and university leaders and students, as well as Vemo Education, which has partnered with Purdue University, Norwich University and Messiah College to create similar initiatives.

“The University of Utah has a well-earned reputation for innovation in a state known for its efforts to ensure access to affordable higher education,” said Tonio DeSorrento, founder and CEO of Vemo Education. “This new program is the next step in the university’s pioneering efforts to create pathways to opportunity that support a new generation of students.”

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