U Leads Nation in Launching Innovative Funding Effort for College Completion

Paying for college can be a challenge. For many University of Utah students, completing their degree means starting and stopping school or reducing their course load in order to save money and avoid taking on debt. Yet prolonging a student’s time to graduation reduces their chance of finishing, costs more in educational expenses, and delays increased earning potential tied to a college degree. To address these challenges, the U strategically developed a new program – Invest in U – which provides students with an additional funding option called an income share agreement (ISA). The U is the first major university in the West to launch an ISA program at scale.

The $6 million Invest in U Fund is composed of donor, investor, and university capital. Lead support came from the Clark and Christine Ivory Foundation. Clark Ivory said, “I’m thrilled to support this innovative initiative to fund and graduate more students, and particularly excited to see our philanthropic resources support the development of a perpetual fund to help students.”

Launching this spring, the Invest in U pilot program will provide students with $3,000-$10,000 to help pay education-related expenses so they can complete their degrees faster and embark on their professional careers. Students will pay 2.85% of their income after graduation (above a certain threshold) for a fixed period of time, ranging from three to 10.5 years, depending on major and amount received. Payments go back into the Invest in U fund to support the success of future students.

During the pilot stage, Invest in U is open to students who are within 32 hours of graduating and majoring in one of 18 selected majors. The majors come from nine colleges across the university and represent a wide range of areas of study including education, humanities, social science, business, engineering, and health-related fields.

“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,’” University of Utah President Ruth V. 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 program also is attracting attention from national media and philanthropic organizations. The university developed its income share agreement program over the past year with help from students and university leaders and the U’s Sorenson Impact Center. Further information may be found at isa.utah.edu.