MPOWER Enables International Scholars to Pursue an Education in the U.S. and Canada with Student Loans that Don’t Require a Credit History

MPOWER Enables International Scholars to Pursue an Education in the U.S. and Canada with Student Loans that Don’t Require a Credit History
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Adam West
By: Adam West
Posted: August 26, 2019
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In a Nutshell: MPOWER Financing provides student loans at universities in the U.S. and Canada for international students who haven’t established a credit history. The application process is simple, and MPOWER takes the student’s academic and professional potential into account, rather than relying solely on a credit score — or a U.S.-based co-signer. MPOWER requires most borrowers to make interest payments while in school, an approach that keeps debt manageable and allows students to build a positive credit history. Interest rate discounts and rewards for referrals also help students improve their financial situations while career support services prepare borrowers for success after graduation.

Srijan B. came to the United States from India to pursue an M.S. in Information Systems at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. He met most of his college expenses thanks to student loans, a paid internship, and some support from his parents. But, as many graduate students know, additional tuition fees present a perennial financial obstacle, and it was no different for Srijan.

He thought his only option was to ask his parents for more money to pursue his advanced degree — until he found MPOWER.

MPOWER Financing provides loans that help international students at more than 350 universities in the United States and Canada meet their college expenses. MPOWER loans range from $2,001 to $50,000, and they’re available to college juniors, seniors, and graduate students who want to prepare for future success through higher education.

And MPOWER especially helps international students who have no financial standing — or credit history — in the country where they plan to study.

Collage of MPOWER logo and photos of Lutz Braum and Sasha Ramani

MPOWER Vice President of Marketing and Business Development Lutz Braum, left, and Manager of Corporate Strategy Sasha Ramani spoke with us about how the platform helps international students.

“This challenge is personal to everybody here,” said Sasha Ramani, Manager of Corporate Strategy at MPOWER. “We are founded by, and mostly run by, former international students who understand the challenges international students face when pursuing an education in the U.S. or Canada.”

MPOWER’s loans help those students achieve academic success and move on to pursue meaningful, rewarding careers.

“We consider these students somewhat undervalued by the rest of the world. But we believe in them. That’s why we help them,” said Lutz Braum, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at MPOWER. “These are not the typical U.S. students who go to college to find themselves. These people come here with a plan and a mission.”

Students Can Fund Higher Learning without Collateral, Cosigners, or Credit Histories

MPOWER loans are open to students attending or seeking admission to select universities. The lender caters to students who are already on track in their fields: either undergraduates within two years of graduation or graduate students pursuing higher degrees. Its loans are available only to students at select institutions that have a track record of providing the best potential outcomes for international students.

Students can apply for a loan from a mobile device, or a desktop computer and MPOWER determines their eligibility with a few simple questions. If they make it past that initial stage, students move on to the application, which takes about 30 minutes to complete. MPOWER will return a lending decision within three business days.

If approved, students upload documents to verify their identity and application information. These materials include photocopies of their passports, résumés, academic transcripts, and bank account statements — to confirm any savings the student has claimed.

Once a student’s loan is finalized, MPOWER provides a support letter to the school. It informs the institution that the student can pay tuition, which in turn clears the school to issue a student visa, so the applicant can enter — or continue residing in — the country.

MPOWER then submits loan money directly to the school. Once approved, the student doesn’t need to worry about making payments or any other aspect of funding, allowing them to focus on their studies.

“It’s a pretty straightforward process for the student as well as for the school,” Braum said.

MPOWER’s loans do not require a cosigner or collateral, nor are they based solely on the student’s credit history. And students can take out multiple loans during their academic careers, ensuring they have the money they need to finish school.

DACA recipients can also turn to MPOWER, as it the only education lender for those students in the U.S. MPOWER also serves domestic students who don’t have a credit profile or a co-signer available.

Responsible Lending Emphasizes Borrower Well-Being

Although MPOWER does consider credit history when making lending decisions, it isn’t the deciding factor for approval or rejection; many other factors are taken into account. For example, when graduate students apply for loans, MPOWER considers their undergraduate record, work experience, their intended career path, and the potential for employment upon graduation.

“We have public data and private data that ultimately help us predict the earning potential of students and their ability to responsibly bear the debt we’re issuing them,” said Ramani.

Photo of the MPOWER team

The MPOWER team strives to help students not only finance their education but also thrive after graduation.

As its name suggests, MPOWER’s mission is to enable students to change their lives through education. As a Public Benefit Corporation, the lender is dedicated to creating positive social change and providing an advantage to students who are traditionally overlooked by other funding providers.

MPOWER has teams of liaisons in the United States, as well as in India, who speak with students before they take out a loan to ensure students understand the nature of the financial assistance for which they’re applying.

“It doesn’t help us — and it doesn’t help the student — if we’re giving them $15,000 and they either don’t graduate or they’re underemployed,” Ramani said. “If we give students a loan, it means, by definition, that we think that they can bear the debt responsibly.”

Proactive Interest Payments Can Help Manage Debt and Build Credit

Unlike other student loans, which defer payments until after students graduate, funding from MPOWER typically requires borrowers to make interest payments while still working toward their degrees. And that often benefits international students.

After students have taken out a loan, interest begins accruing whether they’re making payments or not. A $20,000 loan can turn into a $25,000 debt by the time the borrower graduates, but making interest payments helps keep the debt manageable.

“There are ways for students to defer, but we don’t recommend it,” Ramani said.

Screenshot of MPOWER team banner

MPOWER offers international students significant advantages other U.S. lenders don’t.

Instead, MPOWER offers students ways to earn discounts on their interest rates. Signing up for autopay, meeting interest payments for six months, and providing proof of employment after graduation can all earn students cumulative 1.5% discounts on their rates.

“They can reduce their interest rate by 1.5%, which effectively lowers the rate for an international graduate student to 10.5%,” Braum said. “That compares favorably to the 12% to 15% that they have to pay in India or the 20% they pay in Mexico or 25 to 30% in Argentina,” Braum said.

Even with discounts applied to their loans, making interest payments holds another advantage for international students. It helps them to build a credit history in the United States by making timely payments.

That may enable them to qualify for additional lines of credit and other loans while still in school or if they remain in the country to pursue a career.

Scholarships, Career Counseling, and Rewards Support Underserved Students

Srijan earned his degree and secured a position at MarketAxess, a financial services company that provides bond trading opportunities in emerging markets. The job allowed him to put his education and expertise to work while also advancing the company’s social initiatives.

Far from being a financial burden on his parents, Srijan’s income will actually allow them to retire early. And MPOWER is working to help scores of other international students realize the same results.

In addition to loans, MPOWER also offers merit-based scholarships for international students. As is the case with borrowers, these scholars must be international students attending — or seeking to attend — select universities, and they must demonstrate their desire to improve themselves and the world around them.

“The people who have won, the essays that I’ve read, strike me as having a tremendous amount of purpose,” Braum said. “Somebody who has seen a disease in their country and therefore wants to study biochemistry. They believe better water-cleaning technology can be brought to market and help the next generation live a more healthy life. That’s the kind of student that we’re seeing more.”

And MPOWER still stands behind those ambitious students after they achieve their degrees. The lender often helps them find gainful employment so they can continue pursuing their personal and social goals. Some of them even end up working for MPOWER, helping other students realize the same benefits and opportunities.

“Not everybody’s an international student from Harvard and has a job lined up,” Braum said. “Some of them struggle with finding a job in the U.S. They don’t necessarily know how to network effectively or stand out from the crowd when they come from a culture where standing out is frowned upon. So we do a lot of mock interviews.”

To expand its reach and visibility, the lender also operates a refer-a-friend program. Borrowers spread the word about MPOWER’s loans and services to other qualifying students. For each application they facilitate, the referrer receives a $60 Amazon gift card, and for each approved loan, they receive a $100 gift card.

MPOWER is dedicated to helping students achieve their dreams, from start to finish. And by working with the lender, international scholars can be poised to succeed academically — as well as professionally and socially.