By Angela (Ceresnie) Prince, former Climb CEO
Today, I’m excited to share some amazing news — along with a vision for realistic, actionable solutions to the student debt crisis.
When I graduated from high school nearly 20 years ago, the average cost of college was under ~$10,000/year and generally believed to be a great investment that lead to long term, outsized returns — no questions asked. Over the ensuing years, driven by many factors including a bloated federal loan program and increased demand in higher education, people of my generation and younger have watched in horror as the cost to attend college has increased at an unyielding pace and buried many of us in debt. There are times when the prices quoted seem almost comically high, particularly given the relatively stagnant pace of wages and outcomes from these same schools. Combine this with the constant cry from industries about a lack of skilled workers, and it can appear we’re living in an alternate reality.
But this is reality, and the lack of sustainability of the current system has become apparent. In the past year alone we’ve seen student debt be a major component of the Democratic presidential candidates’ platforms (complete with a hashtag to #CancelMyDebt), states passing student loan bills of rights, employers offering student loan repayment assistance as a benefit; and people fleeing the country to escape their crushing debt.
People and companies are starting to notice, and more importantly are starting to take action toward solving the underlying problems. This is the motivation for all of us at Climb, and today we have an announcement that puts us one step closer to making systematic impact.
One of the first trends toward a solution were coding bootcamps — which have worked to provide an alternate path to the traditional 4-year software engineering degree. The demand for engineers in today’s workforce simply overwhelmed the system, and now we have amazing programs like our partner General Assembly, enabling anyone with the drive and interest to become an engineer in a fraction of the time and cost.
Climb was built out of this movement. Over the past 5 years, we have developed the first outcomes-oriented student loan, relying on 3 key principles:
- We only work with schools that deliver — we leverage a proprietary diligence process, requiring all partner schools to provide data confirming they are producing valuable outcomes to their students at a reasonable price.
- Schools invest in their students — our partner schools all participate in the loans alongside Climb, meaning if students succeed, schools earn more money.
- Educational loans should be affordable — we believe that the obligation on a student loan after graduation should be affordable. Not only do we understand the likely wage outcomes of every program we work with, we ensure that the Climb loan is a small percentage of those wages.
At Climb, we work with over 140 amazing schools, across many different disciplines, all leading to careers for today’s economy. We are proud to call these schools partners, and even more proud to call the 11,000+ students who have financed with us our customers.
We are thrilled to welcome Third Prime, New Markets, Acumen, Impact Engine, Elizabeth Tse, and Two Culture Capital as investors who are committed to our mission of expanding access to career-advancing education. We’re also proud that our existing investors including One Zero Capital, Montage Ventures, Michael Sidgmore, and Learn Capital participated as well.
Over the past year, we’ve grown quickly and were proud to receive financing from the Urban Investment Group at Goldman Sachs, but there is so much more amazing work still to be done. We will use this new capital to continue serving the schools and students who are delivering results every day. Additionally, we will invest in the expansion of our platform — providing more services and transparency to consumers looking to increase their earning potential. Finally, we’ll be launching a new product, similar to an Income Share Agreement (ISA) but with the important consumer protections of a loan.
We have built a great team, a great product, and wonderful investors. I’m looking forward to continuing our track record of building products that address the student loan crisis. We’ve got an exciting road ahead!